Peaceful unity in captive's book

  • December 12, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s been three years since Jim Loney narrowly escaped from Baghdad with his life. He marked the occasion with a book launch Nov. 26 which gathered dozens of people who had prayed and worked for his release.

Kidnappers held Loney and three other members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams captive four months, until an international military operation sprang them March 23, 2006. By then one of the four captives, American Tom Fox, had been killed by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, a previously unknown group.

The book launched at the Steelworker’s Hall in downtown Toronto is called 118 Days: Christian Peacemaker Teams Held Hostage in Iraq (edited by Trisha Gates Brown, published by Dreamseeker Books). It was written by 22 of the people who had prayed for the captured four.

It was only after he returned to Canada that Loney learned of the solidarity his plight had inspired among both Christians and Muslims. Vigils were held regularly at the Nathan Philips Square Peace Garden, an interfaith prayer service was held at St. Michael’s Cathedral and Muslim leaders around the world appealed for the captives’ release.

{sa 1931038619} “It brought people together. There was an extraordinary interest in our captivity and the reasons that brought us to Baghdad, and in peace and non-violence,” Loney told The Catholic Register.

Listening to some of the 22 contributors read their essays from 118 Days, Loney experienced a sense of just how people came together while he was held in a small room a world away.

“It was a mobilization of solidarity, a mobilization of the Gospel imagination for peace,” he said.

But once he was home, Loney also encountered the opposite of solidarity. During his captivity, Loney’s family, friends and the media had kept his homosexuality hidden. If it had leaked out onto the Internet there was a good chance Loney would have been killed. Loney’s partner Dan Hunt had to disappear.

But when Loney returned and Hunt re-emerged from the shadows they were greeted with threats. People threw things at their house at night and screamed obscenities at them. Both sides of that coin — the prayers from many people and the hatred of a few — continue to teach a lesson in solidarity, said Loney.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual sex is a grave sin; it also preaches that there be no undue discrimination against those with homosexual tendencies.

Loney is hard at work on his own book about his time in Iraq and hopes to have it out next year.

“Christ’s teaching of nonviolence and the teaching of the earliest church, I still believe in the truth of that,” said Loney. “I remain more strongly committed than I ever have been that we need to abolish the institution of war if we are going to survive on this planet.”

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