Three Christian Peacemaker Team Workers Freed in Baghdad


Three Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) workers who disappeared in Iraq four months ago have been freed. CPT confirmed news reports this morning that the hostages–Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember–were freed without violence by British and US military.

Tom Fox, the fourth CPT worker who disappeared Nov. 26, 2005, was found dead in Baghdad on Mar. 10, 2006.


The full statement from On Earth Peace and the full statement from Christian Peacemaker Teams may be found below.


March 9. A group called Swords of Righteousness Brigades had claimed responsibility for taking the men hostage, and videos of the men had been shown on Al Jazeera television.

“Our hearts were filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad,” said CPT in a statement today. “Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.”

“On Earth Peace rejoices with CPT at the news that the three CPT workers who have been held captive in Iraq since November were found today, safe and sound,” said a statement from On Earth Peace, a Church of the Brethren agency with a close relationship to CPT. “We join the families…in giving thanks to God for their safe release. In addition, we are very thankful that no one was killed or injured in the rescue of the three men, who were found early today by a British military unit. That effort to free them would be without violence was the firm intention and hope of the CPTers themselves.”

CNN reported that no captors were present early this morning when the three were freed from a house in western Baghdad, following information received from a “detainee who was captured the night before,” CNN said. All three were well, unhurt, and safe, a British embassy official told CNN. The men were reported to be in the British embassy in Baghdad.

“We remember with tears Tom Fox,” CPT said. “Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion.”

The CPT statement added, “During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis: Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?…. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God’s compassionate love to show us the way.”

Today On Earth Peace also called Brethren to continued prayer for “all who are now held captive by the spirit of war.” In its statement of thanks for the safe release of the three peacemakers, On Earth Peace added, “To all those throughout the church who have been praying for their safe release, we express our profound gratitude. We encourage you to continue praying: for the release of the 14,000 Iraqis, most of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing, now being held in prison by military forces in Iraq; and also for the release of all who are now held captive by the spirit of war –that they may know the freedom of the way that Jesus taught.”

Christian Peacemaker Teams was originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker), and now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations.

For more information go to http://www.cpt.org/.

 

FULL STATEMENT FROM CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS: CPT REJOICES IN THE RELEASE OF OUR PEACEMAKERS

Our hearts were filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.

We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking.

We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far.

We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost.

We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion.

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis: Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?

With Tom’s death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God’s compassionate love to show us the way.

Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote:

“With God’s abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies. With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil. With God’s unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community.”

 

FULL STATEMENT FROM ON EARTH PEACE ON THE RELEASE OF THE CPT WORKERS IN IRAQ

Thanks be to God!

On Earth Peace rejoices with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) at the news that the three CPT workers who have been held captive in Iraq since November were found today, safe and sound.

We join the families of Norman Kember, Jim Loney, and Harmeet Singh Snooden in giving thanks to God for their safe release. In addition, we are very thankful that no one was killed or injured in the rescue of the three men, who were found early today by a British military unit. That effort to free them would be without violence was the firm intention and hope of the CPTers themselves.

Our elation at today’s good news is tinged with sadness as we remember the death of the fourth CPTer, Tom Fox, whose body was discovered earlier this month.

To all those throughout the church who have been praying for their safe release, we express our profound gratitude. We encourage you to continue praying: for the release of the 14,000 Iraqis, most of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing, now being held in prison by military forces in Iraq; and also for the release of all who are now held captive by the spirit of war that they may know the freedom of the way that Jesus taught.

On Earth Peace serves as the primary Church of the Brethren connection with CPT, cooperating in annual delegations to the Middle East and in other peacemaking programs.

 


The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail write to cobnews@aol.com or call 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Submit news to cobnews@aol.com. For more news and features, subscribe to Messenger magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.