Monday, May 16, 2011

Captivity and Forgiveness

When the news media were full of the kidnapping details in 2005 in Iraq of four men representing a Christian peace group, it seemed a lunatic enterprise on the part of those held hostage to enter the country for the purpose of attempting to turn Iraqis toward peace and away from violence. The Iraqis themselves were fully invested in their tribal and sectarian hatred toward one another. Their focus was on the capture, torture and murder of Shia or Sunni by Sunni or Shia.

But the Christian Peacemaker Team sent a delegation of four committed members to preach sweetness and light, courtesy fundamentalist Christians who believe in forgiveness and redemption to fundamentalist Muslims who practise violent jihad and martyrdom. One of the abductees who had been held for 118 days as hostages before a joint commando raid freed them, has written a memoir of the experience.

Long before James Loney wrote his memoir he had issued a public expression of forgiveness toward his captors. Recalling his statements at that time he seemed like a delusional and fearfully stupid man, determined to support his faith by declarations of unflagging hope in the decency and goodness of humankind. Failing to make a distinction between social environments and hereditary antipathies.
"I know I'm speaking out of school here, but I'm going to say it anyway. You have no idea how many people were involved, how many people risked their lives to get you out. I want you to tell your people that. Just tell them to think about that before they decide to send someone else here. I'm not saying anything else. Just tell them. Tell them to think about all the people that risked their lives to get you out."
This was spoken to James Loney in an icily chiding lecture by one of the soldiers who had been tasked to rescue him and the three other abductees. It was a joint British-U.S. task force, whose formation had the purpose of hunting for al-Qaeda operatives and rescuing foreign hostages. Everything comes at a price. The men who rescued Loney and the two others risked their lives.

The fourth man was beyond rescue. An American, Tom Fox, had earlier been removed from the squalid site where he had been kept along with James Loney, Norman Kember and Harmeet Singh. He was murdered, his body found on a street in Baghdad. And the following is what illuminates the peculiar mind-set of a man like James Loney.

Determined to forgive, he will not permit himself to feel any kind of rancour or blame against his abductors. He lived for all the time he was in captivity in the fear of their discovering that he is gay knowing that they would make an attempt to cure his homosexuality; the cure for which in many Muslim societies is death.

Like the jihadis that captured him and his three colleagues determined to turn the face of peace toward their captors, he believes in self-discipline and self-sacrifice; where they believe in the sacrifice of martyrdom with its great reward of attentive virgins in Paradise, he believes in the martyrdom of self to a greater ideal of Godly virtue.

Neither he nor the two others who were rescued from their miserable captivity and possible even future torture and death, would agree to testify against their captors in the prosecution of the death of the American Tom Fox, by trial in Iraq by its Central Criminal Court. "They took Tom away from us, but they did not take away our ability to forgive.

"We did not lose ourselves. We were not infected with the poison of hate. They may have changed our lives, but they did not change us." This is how James Loney celebrates his victory over the events that occurred to him as a tormented prisoner of the Swords of Righteousness Brigade who held them for ransom.

In pledging forgiveness and refusing to testify against their captors they effectively denied justice to the man whom their captors murdered. This kind of moralistic hubris does not reflect a humble mind but a sadly delusional one. Obtusely, deliberately delusional.

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