To die for peace. This is one of the founding principles of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group that sends delegations to places such as Hebron, Colombia and Iraq to “get in the way” of violence—through street patrols, recording volatile situations, even stepping in front of armed soldiers. Five years ago, Canadian CPT member James Loney got in the way and nearly did die.
Loney—along with fellow CPT delegates Harmeet Singh (Canadian), Norman Kember (British) and Tom Fox (American)—was kidnapped in Baghdad in November 2005. The men were held for 118 days—minus a few for Fox, who was killed shortly before the other three were rescued by U.S. and British forces. Canada devoted a team of RCMP officers to the mission and ensured that Loney’s homosexuality was not made public lest it be used against him by his captors.
Loney recounts his experiences in exhaustive detail—what he ate, the order in which hostages used the hamam (bathroom), inane exchanges with the captors—bringing to life the bizarre blend of terror and boredom the men endured. They suffered from Stockholm syndrome, scrambling to please their captors—Loney regularly gave one massages. They kept their own conflict to a minimum, but when it did happen, it proved “the occasion of some of the most intense emotional pain” for Loney. Guilt hangs heavy in his telling of the time he confronted Fox and Singh for taking more than their share of food.
When one of his rescuers angrily asks Loney to consider how many people risked their lives to save his, Loney is taken aback. “You are the reason I came here,” he thinks. “So you no longer have to do this.” Though Loney’s position on war never shifts, his value of freedom grows ferocious. “Let me go let me go let me go!” he writes. “A cry capable of blasting down walls and breaking chains. It burned within me like a fire…militantly, continuously, irresistibly.”