Note #9184 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
06148 March 7, 2006
Only 3 of 4 peacemaker-hostages appear on new tape on Al-Jazeera
CPT colleagues wonder why American Tom Fox wasn't on broadcast
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE - Members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaking Teams (CPT) are not speculating about why one of four activists taken hostage last year did not appear in a new videotape broadcast on Arab television on March 7.
Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, VA, was not visible in the 25-second tape that was played without audio on the Al-Jazeera news network.
Of the four international hostages, Fox is the only U.S. citizen.
There has been no other word on the four men - who were kidnapped in Baghdad 102 days ago - since Al-Jazeera's broadcast of a previous videotape on Jan. 28.
A previously unknown group that calls itself the "Swords of Righteousness Brigades" said the hostages would be killed unless all Iraqi prisoners were released from U.S. and Iraqi prisons. No deadline was set. Several previous deadlines have passed without incident.
Visible on the new tape are Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, and Briton Norman Kember, 74.
"We're not speculating about (Fox's absence)," said Jessica Phillips, a spokesperson in CPT's Chicago office. The video showed three men sitting in chairs, talking. Two of the men had full beards, and CPT colleagues said they all seemed to have lost weight.
CPT helps Iraqis locate family members who have been detained by international forces in Iraq and non-violently opposes the war and the U.S. occupation.
The group has been working in Iraq since October 2002, when it began investigating allegations of abuse against Iraqi detainees. It claims that more than 14,000 Iraqis are being held in prisons without charge, with no access to their families or legal advisors, and without legal recourse.
"It was sad not to see Tom there, but we don't know anything," said Anita David, a Chicago Presbyterian posted in Baghdad since last October. "No one has tried to contact us, even at this late date. Tom could just be off-camera, for all we know. But we continue to believe he's still alive and we certainly hope he's OK.
"It was really good to see the guys, because it says that they're still alive ... and we were unhappy to see that Tom is absent from the video. We're concerned for Tom's family, who need to be reassured that he's alive.
"They're skinny. They're tired. But they're there," David told the Presbyterian News Service after the tape was broadcast.
Just a few weeks shy of the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion, David is one of seven volunteers sharing CPT's Baghdad apartment. One of her colleagues is Beth Pyles, a ministerial candidate in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
As they move about the city, the team's women generally wear Muslim garb - both the hijab, a head-covering, and full-length coats. CPT has been scolded by the U.S. government for allowing its people to walk around Baghdad unaccompanied by bodyguards.
In a statement issued on March 7, CPT quoted a document Fox wrote the day before he was kidnapped. "We are here to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God," he said. "How we take part in the creation of this realm 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."
David said the activists and the Iraqi people are clinging to hope for an end to the violence. "Everybody here is shattered, yet they get up and they function. You can't afford to lose hope here. That's when you're done."
She said CPT has had several recent successes in helping Iraqi families find missing members.
It is slow, often unsuccessful work, she said, "but that's what we're here to do."
If the kidnappers release her colleagues, she said, the men will carry on CPT's work on behalf of Iraqi detainees.
"The sooner they let them go, the sooner we can all get back to work," she said. "There's no shortage of work here for CPT. We could use another team."
In its statement, the CPT blamed the abduction on the U.S. occupation.
"Many in Iraq have experienced this long war as terrorism," it said. "The occupation must end."
CPT directed readers to the Global Call for Nonviolent Resistance to End the Military Occupation of Iraq, an organization scheduling events around the world marking the third anniversary of the invasion. The events will take place over three days starting on March 18.
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