Friday 24 March 2006

Peace -- at what price? (Tom Fox, CPTer)

Here's one retrospect well worth passing along, shared with me by a good friend working at my alma mater. Jim is the Communications Officer of Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA. This was his latest missive in his weekly column, the "Bishop's Mantle", in the Daily News Record - their local newspaper (written just before the release of James Loney, Harmet Sooden and Norman Kember, Tom Fox's CPT colleagues.)

What We Have is a Failure to Communicate
by Jim Bishop

The office phone rang about 7:45 a.m. I offered the most pleasant early morning greeting possible, and a gruff-sounding voice growled: "Who do you think you are? You people are on the wrong track. Tom Fox is a (expletive deleted). He knew what would happen to him over there (in Iraq). He got what he deserved. He's a (expletive)." Then, a dial tone.

At first, I sat there, somewhat stunned. Not the best way to start the day, but I wasn't overly surprised. I only wished I'd had my wits about me and checked my caller ID so I could have tried calling back for a more civil, two-way conversation.

I have little doubt that the anonymous caller's sentiments would reflect others in this community who consider the late Tom Fox a dreamer at best or a fool at worst. Tom, most people know by now, was being held hostage in Iraq along with three other Christian Peacemaker Team workers since Nov. 26 by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade. He was found shot to death on Mar. 9 by Iraqi police in western Baghdad.

Fox's body was returned to the U.S. for burial. The Eastern Mennonite University community joined others in the greater Harrisonburg area community in a memorial service in his honor Mar. 15.

It was a powerful service of spoken word, music and visual images, celebrating a life given up while trying to help the disenfranchised and remembering others who remain unjustly imprisoned, not only in Iraq but in other regions of ongoing conflict worldwide.

Tom Fox was willing to stand in harm's way just as thousands of soldiers are doing. Both realize their commitment may lead to paying the ultimate price for their actions. Tom marched to a different battle cry and paid the ultimate price while living out his call to active nonviolence and

Some are calling Tom a "hero." I suspect he would be uncomfortable with that term. Rather, the 54-year-old Quaker would likely prefer something along the line of "servant," a humble follower of the Prince of Peace.

While I'd be willing to stand in the line of fire to protect any of my loved ones, I'm not sure I'm as ready to go the extent that Tom did. Some of his words shared at the memorial service clearly indicated that he entered his assignment fully aware of the possible consequences.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper editorial of Mar. 14 stated, "Tom Fox lived what he believed . . . This is not a time to judge but humbly to recognize the heroism of those who voluntarily walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not fearing evil but in the expectation of casting in the darkness an inner light."

The words of the Prince of Peace from the Sermon on the Mount echo in my mind: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteouness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5: 9-10).

In another setting, Christ declared, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Tom Fox's body now rests in the soil of his homeland after laboring in a hazardous vineyard thousands of miles away, where the seeds of peace that he sowed others will water and, ultimately, will bear fruit.

Perhaps the hardest part to deal with in situations like this is that life goes on, the secondhand doesn't slow down, commitments and deadlines continue beating on our hearts and minds. There is scarcely time to grieve.

My hope and prayer is that the other CPT hostages - James Loney, Harmet Sooden and Norman Kember - along with journalist Jill Carroll and hundredds of others being held captive without legal recourse or trial - will soon be released unharmed.

I firmly believe that Tom's death was not in vain, that this tragic loss may inspire more people to work to resolve conflict through other than the violence and force found through guns and bombs.

We don't all understand each other in this country, but we can listen to each other and respect differing opinions. That is what democracy is all about. That is what both Tom and the U.S. military soldiers are giving their lives for in Iraq, albeit in different ways. Without listening and tolerance for our differences, there will be no peace or security, indeed, no democracy.


"Dance like nobody's watching,
dream like you will live forever,
live like you're going to die tomorrow
and love like it's never going to hurt."
- Meme Grifsters

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