Terry Waite, who successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya and himself became a hostage in 1987 while negotiating the release of hostages in Beirut, has offered his help to the families of two Canadian peace activists abducted in Iraq last Nov. 26.
“I just say to the families … keep hope alive,” Mr. Waite said in a story on the CBC Web site. He was speaking at a lecture on public policy and spirituality at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “If there’s anything I can do, you’ve only just got to get in touch.”
Mr. Waite, a Briton, became known worldwide in the 1980s when, as a special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was kidnapped himself and held captive for 1,763 days.
He told the audience that he was aware of the toll that abductions exact on the families of hostages. During his captivity, Mr. Waite was subjected to various forms of torture; he was held in solitary confinement for four years before being released in 1991. During those years, Mr. Waite said his family had no idea whether he was dead or alive.
Mr. Waite also said that Canadian citizenship did not guarantee safety in Iraq, where the situation remains volatile after the American occupation in 2003. “Canada is lumped along with the rest of the oppressive West,” he said. “There is an absolute determination amongst certain sections of the population in Iraq to get rid of foreign presence.”
Nonetheless, he said, it was important to remain hopeful that the hostages would be released. A group calling itself The Swords of Righteousness Brigade has claimed responsibility for the abduction of Christian Peace Teams activists James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden – both Canadians – Norman Kember, a Briton, and Tom Fox, an American.
Last year, Mr. Waite, who wrote Taken On Trust, a book about his ordeal, returned to Lebanon for the first time since his release to visit refugee camps and to conduct research on the effects of war on the young.
He has occasionally been asked by the international media to share his views on how best to negotiate with hostage-takers in Iraq.
After his release, Mr. Waite, along with two YMCA England employees, founded Y Care International, which provides development aid and education to disadvantaged youth around the world. He is also the United Kingdom president of Emmaus International, which serves the homeless.