Like many Friends, my thoughts in recent days have turned frequently to Tom Fox and the other three Christian Peacemaker Team workers who were taken captive by insurgents in Iraq on November 26. Several of the messages delivered in Meeting yesterday mentioned Mr. Fox, who is a member of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
One young woman called upon Friends to hold his captors in the Light. I confess that I find this prospect a challenge. When I was 10 years old, a friend of my parents' was assasinated by terrorists at a gas station in Namibia. Earlier, a colleague of my father's was among the hostages murdered by revolutionaries at the American Embassy in Teheran. Another was taken captive in Beirut. Although my own family was left thankfully untouched by that particular brand of horror, its specter nevertheless loomed larger in our lives than it presumably does for most Americans. I remember sitting in an antiseptic government office in Maryland, watching a video that offered tips on how to avoid being kidnapped while overseas. Hijacking, surveillance, sudden violence were not simply plot devices out of some summer potboiler; they were real possibilities that could at any moment have made an unwelcome intrusion into our lives.
When I think about the people who would commit such acts, who would hold peace workers for ransom at gunpoint, it is difficult for me to feel any sense of identification or compassion for them. It's too personal. I can too easily envision my father's face in the wan, drawn features of the hostages who peer dully through the grainy flicker of a cheap video recording. Loving your enemy is a noble aspiration, but at times like these it seems out of my reach.
The Friend who spoke yesterday didn't stop at that, however. She went on to say that she has faith that the Light is accessible to Mr. Fox, that his life and work and witness are a testament to the working of the Light in his life. Therefore the people who really need to be held in the Light are his captors. Their actions reveal how profoundly their lives have been shattered, she said, how far they are from wholeness. They are the ones who need God's healing love the most. Her words reminded me of the powerful passage in Luke 6 in which Jesus admonishes,
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? . . . But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return . . . Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
For some reason, that way of looking at it helps nudge me closer to compassion. It's still difficult for me. But I'm trying to hold Tom Fox's captors in the Light, even as I pray for the safe release of the CPT members.