Iraq: Christian Peace Activist Hostages freed
B a g d a d - After nearly four months in the hands of their Iraqi kidnappers, the British Baptist Prof. Norman Kember (74) and two Canadian Christian peace activists, James Loney (41) und Harmeet Singh (32), were freed on 23 March. According to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, they were liberated by special forces units in the vicinity of Bagdad. Kember reported that he was in good health. He and the two other captives were nevertheless placed in hospital for observation. Two weeks ago the body of another hostage, the US-American James Fox (54), had been found. His body had revealed bullet wounds in the head and chest as well as injuries caused by torture.
All four were kidnapped in Bagdad on 26 November. In four videos the Muslim kidnappers called their group “Sword of Righteousness Brigade”. They had threatened to murder their hostages if all prisoners held by US forces and the Bagdad government were not released. The hostages belong to a Christian Peacemaker Team which intended through its presence to protest against the war in Iraq.
Tony Peck (Prague), General-Secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), applauded in an initial statement the freeing of the hostages. He views the success of the military operation as God’s response to “many prayers and vigils”. Peck had repeatedly called on Europe’s 800,000 Baptists to pray for the hostages. Also the President of the 34-million member Baptist World Alliance, David Coffey (Didcot), had requested that all Baptist congregations express solidarity with Kember and the other hostages.
Christian Peacemaker Teams consist of pacifists stemming primarily from Mennonite, Baptist and Reformed congregations. They are also active in Columbia, Canada, regions of Palestine and on the border between Mexico and the USA. The organisation rejects all force as a means for freeing hostages.