Wednesday, December 07, 2005


It's hard to take time to write a blog now. We wait and wait for news from Iraq. There is so little that can be done but waiting.

The news coverage of the abduction has been exhaustive here in Canada, and for that, I'm glad. I don't think people "get" nonviolence, and here they are seeing a very strong and heartbreaking picture of it. I think they get it now, maybe a little -- that people can die for peace as well as dying for war.

The four peacemakers had at different times made statements about not paying ransoms and not vilifying captors should they be captured. While they didn't condone or participate in violence, they understood that stress and oppression has a breaking point. They still wanted to hold all people in the Light and speak to that of God in them, regardless of the situation. They wanted their efforts at peacemaking to stand on their own strength, not bolstered with guns and institutions and wrangling over dollars and cents.

And their message has been very powerful. One of the most hearwarming things about this agonizing situation is the amount of global response it has evoked. Muslim leaders and clerics around the world, including those leading Hamas in Palestine, have called for their release, citing their strong peaceful witness to the world as the reason. The heads of both the British and Canadian Muslim councils have gone to Bagdad to do what they can. In the middle of a terrible war, at the place that is the closest thing to hell on this planet, the world is focused on the simple efforts of four men to be peace for some forgotten people.

It makes me think of Mary Dyer, returning again and again to fundamentalist Massachusetts despite being told she would be executed for being a Quaker. She bore no weapons and committed no crimes, just witnessed with her presence -- and eventually with her life -- for religious freedom. In the end, even though she was executed, the Light she brought to that colony survived and endured, as she had intended. It was her willingness to die for the Light that made people see it.

And so however this abduction in Iraq plays out, the efforts of the four peacemakers to bring the Light to a land wracked by violence will succeed. The peace they have lived all their lives, even in what could be their last days, has been heard around the world.

And we must accept that. Even if they die.

A quaker song has been going through my head all week: "That Cause Can Neither Be Lost nor Stayed."

"There by itself like a tree it shows;
That high it reaches as deep it grows,
And when the storms are its branches shaking,
It deeper root in the soil is taking.

Be then no more by a storm dismayed,
For by it the full-grown seeds are laid;
And though the tree by its might it shatters,
What then, if thousands of seeds it scatters?"


At 1:28 AM, Anonymous John Stephens said...

Thank you, Nancy. Tom is a personal friend and mentor of mine, and we are working around the clock in this effort to have him released. We don't know if anything we do will have any effect on the outcome, but if we do not do what we can for this Friend who has faithfully served our community for so long, it would be even more tragic.

From your blog: "And so however this abduction in Iraq plays out, the efforts of the four peacemakers to bring the Light to a land wracked by violence will succeed. The peace they have lived all their lives, even in what could be their last days, has been heard around the world."

I agree with your assesment. Chuck & I have been talking about this. Tom is one of very few Quakers since the colonial era to be on the verge of execution simply for living a Quaker testimony, and how Quakers and Christians respond is perhaps the central challenge of this. Shall we be paralyzed with fear throughout this ordeal or will we respond with fearless courage to the prophetic poetry of Isaiah?

“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;/ by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,/ make many to be accounted righteous”
Isaiah 53:11

We set up a website with some guidance from Lisa Schirch of Eastern Mennonite University, who has been in contact with hostage negotiation experts from around the world. You can find it online at

Thanks again!

At 9:02 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...

Thanks for the reference to the song "That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed." Sad that such an incident must remind us of the seeds that are to be scattered...

Liz, The Good Raised Up

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Thank you, Nancy. your blog has meant a lot to me since I found it, for several reasons, and I'm moved by your words in this post, on this subject. It's been many years since I've been in my home and native land, but I'm glad to hear that they are paying better attention to this situation that the news here. Are they staying true to Tom Fox's wish that journalists do not villify his captors?

I am praying.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Great post, Nancy. BTW Not a Quaker song; a Methodist song (joke!!)


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