Freed hostage felt ‘entombed’ in Iraq

Published May 1, 2006

Hostages Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney were freed after four months in captivity.

Freed Canadian peace activist James Loney referred to the Easter story when he likened his four-month captivity in Iraq to being entombed.

“My captivity and rescue have helped me to catch a glimpse of how powerful the force of resurrection is,” he wrote in an essay published April 15 in the Toronto Star. He and fellow hostages Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden and Briton Norman Kember were held in a 10-foot by 10-foot room, handcuffed and chained except for bathroom breaks. They were freed by multinational forces in late March. A fellow hostage, Tom Fox, an American, had been killed earlier. The four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams were abducted by a group that “wanted money to fund their war against the occupation of Iraq,” Mr. Loney wrote.

However, he said, Christ teaches us that “violence itself is the tomb,” and reaching out to others  is the answer.

At a news conference shortly after he returned to his  hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Mr. Loney reaffirmed his advocacy for peace saying that his decision to go to Iraq in January 2003, shortly before the U.S. invasion, was triggered by the death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, who was a friend of a friend. “I thought, it’s my conviction that peace can never be achieved through the barrel of a gun, that violence ultimately breeds more violence,” he said. “If this is my belief, then it is my responsibility to try to take some of the risks that soldiers take, using the tools of nonviolence instead of the weapons of war, so that one day we will no longer need to send beautiful young men … into armed combat, because we will have abolished the institution of war just like we abolished slavery.”

Shortly after his return to Canada, Mr. Loney revealed that his sexuality had been kept out of the media at the request of his family, following a recommendation by foreign affairs officials who feared his captors might harm him if they knew he was gay.

Details of the other captives had also been kept secret: according to reports, Mr. Sooden had once worked for a defence company in New Zealand while Mr. Fox used to play for the U.S. Marines band.

Mr. Loney also said he was thankful to the soldiers who had rescued the captives.


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