Peacemaker at seminary voices concern for activists in Iraq

Fellow members of her group kidnapped and accused of spying

By: David Campbell
   Princeton Theological Seminary student Angela Davis says she and fellow volunteers with Christian Peacemaker Teams understand that for peace to take root in Iraq, its advocates must be willing to face the same risks as the soldiers do there.
   "We’re all very aware of the dangers," said Ms. Davis, 24, a second-year master of divinity student at the seminary who did a two-week tour in Iraq last summer through the Christian organization. "It’s a decision that we make, but it’s worth it.
   "We believe we need to be willing to risk the same things for nonviolent conflict resolution that the soldiers are willing to risk in war," she continued. "If we’re going to talk about peace, it needs to be an active thing."
   The danger is very real, especially so in recent days for Ms. Davis and her colleagues with Christian Peacemaker Teams, a Chicago-based organization that is active around the world promoting nonviolent conflict resolution.
   Tom Fox, whom she said she worked with and befriended during her brief time in the war-ravaged country, along with three other Christian Peacemakers were kidnapped about two weeks ago by a group calling itself the "Swords of Righteousness Brigade."
   The kidnappers accused the peace activists of being spies for coalition forces and earlier had said they would be killed by Thursday unless all prisoners were released. That deadline was extended to Saturday, and since then there has been no word about the hostages’ fates, Ms. Davis said Monday.
   The other three captives are Norman Kember, 74, of London, and James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, both Canadians. Mr. Fox, 54, is a resident of Virginia.
   The Chicago-based Christian organization has been active in Iraq since fall 2002, primarily investigating allegations of abuse against Iraqi detainees in the hands of coalition forces, Ms. Davis said.
   The group has been gathering testimony from people there and telling their stories back in the United States with the purpose of moving U.S. officials to take action. Between 13,000 and 16,000 detainees are being held in Iraq, she said.
   Ms. Davis said she plans to return to the country this summer. She said Mr. Fox is deeply committed to the Christian group’s mission there. He has been there for more than two years, staying on long after many other Westerners had left for fear of their safety.
   "He felt very strongly about a nonviolent presence, and the importance of bearing witness amidst all that chaos and violence," she said.
   Mr. Fox is not a spy, she Added; he was in Iraq to work for peace on behalf of Iraqis.
   "I think the people who took them made a mistake," she said.
   Since the latest deadline passed on Saturday, things have been tense for Ms. Davis and the many others who are pushing for the four peace activists’ release. She said she has attended prayer vigils for the hostages, and others who have contacts in the Middle East are actively working on their behalf.
   And through it all, she said, hope remains.
   "We’re anxious, but also hopeful, hoping that word is spreading — religious leaders, scholars and activists are speaking out on behalf of the work Christian Peacemakers are doing," Ms. Davis said. "So I think there is hope. It’s not without hope."