By Peggy Gish
Following is a remembrance of Tom Fox by Peggy Gish, a Church of the Brethren member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams working in Iraq. Fox was found dead in Baghdad on March 9. He was a Quaker and an American member of CPT who disappeared with three other CPT workers in Baghdad last November. The three other men–Norman Kember, 74, of Great Britain; James Loney, 41, of Canada; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, of Canada–have not been heard from since Fox’s body was found with gunshot wounds and signs of having been tortured. Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations. For more go to http://www.cpt.org/.
“`If I understand the message of God, we are here to take part in the creation of the peaceable Realm of God. And that is to love God with all our heart, our mind and our strength and to love our neighbors and enemies as we love God and ourselves,’ Allan Slater read during our memorial service for Tom at a local church in Baghdad. We selected the reading from a reflection Tom Fox had written days before he was kidnapped. At the front of the church was a large picture of Tom, a bouquet of fresh flowers and lit candles.
“`Tom was very clear that if any harm came to him he did not want anyone to act out of revenge or ill will. He calls us to follow Jesus’ example of loving and praying for those labeled enemy,’ I said as part of the beginning tribute to Tom. When it came to the part about Tom’s captivity for over 100 days and his death, the words were harder to get out.
“It was rewarding to see in the church the caring faces of so many Iraqis that had loved Tom. There were members of the congregation, some Christian neighbors, and Muslim friends and colleagues.
“The assembled sang a version of the song, `Be Thou My Vision,’ that Tom had liked.
“Maxine read excerpts from another of Tom’s writings. He spoke of his struggle to not let rage take over, become numb, or turn away from the pain he encountered, but to learn compassion while staying with that pain.
“On Friday, the day after we learned of Tom’s death, we had to decide whether to go ahead with or cancel two meetings scheduled at our apartment. One was to link leaders from the Muslim Peacemakers Taskforce (MPT) in Najaf with a Sunni human rights organization in Baghdad. They were forming a coalition between Shi’a, Sunni, Christian, and Kurdish organizations to work to prevent sectarian violence. The second was to link MPTers with Palestinian Iraqis whose lives are under daily threat and are asking for accompaniment to travel to one of Iraq’s borders. While emotionally it was very hard for us to host these meetings, it seemed important to do so.
“The news of Tom’s death hit us hard. We grieve–especially for Tom’s family. We also continue to celebrate Tom’s life as we remember his words and his work to end all forms of violence. It does not take away the sorrow, but it helps remind us why we are here and why Tom kept returning to Iraq and was willing to give up his life.
“Our memorial service tribute to Tom ended with the words we heard expressed by so many Iraqis in the past three days: `Tom, we will greatly miss you.’”