Earlier today I was informed that American peace activist Tom Fox was abducted in Baghdad. At first I was told not to disclose his name, but I’m now seeing his name show up in media.
I met Tom Fox in 2002. He and my parents were both on the planning committee for YouthQuake, a national gathering of Quaker youth. One night the planning committee went to eat at Ed’s Cantina, and everyone chatted with each other.
He struck me as a very nice man. He had spent several years playing clarinet for the Marine Band; that’s the band that plays for the presidents. He said that Bill Clinton hung out with the band more than Ronald Reagan or George H.W.Bush did. At the 2003 YouthQuake conference, Fox was one of the leaders. I was struck by how deep a thinker he is. He never dismissed any viewpoint.
“If an attacker inspires anger or fear in my heart, it means that I have not purged myself of violence. To realize nonviolence means to feel within you its strength – soul force – to know God. A person who has known God will be incapable of harboring anger or fear within him [or her], no matter how overpowering the cause for that anger or fear may be.” (Gandhi speaking to Badshah Kahn’s Khudai Khidmatgar officers; A Man to Match His Mountains by Eknath Easwaran, pg. 157.)
If I am not to fight or flee in the face of armed aggression, be it the overt aggression of the army or the subversive aggression of the terrorist, then what am I to do? “Stand firm against evil” (Matthew 5:39, translated by Walter Wink) seems to be the guidance of Jesus and Gandhi in order to stay connected with God. But here in Iraq I struggle with that second form of aggression. I have visual references and written models of Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members standing firm against the overt aggression of an army, be it regular or paramilitary. But how do you stand firm against a car-bomber or a kidnapper? Clearly, the soldier being disconnected from God needs to have me fight. Just as clearly, the terrorist being disconnected from God needs to have me flee. Both are willing to kill me using different means to achieve the same end. That end being to increase the parasitic power of Satan within God’s good creation.
It seems easier somehow to confront anger within my heart than it is to confront fear. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am not to give in to either. I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier. Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying “American for the Taking?” No, to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life, and if I lose it, to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan. I struggle to stand firm but I’m willing to keep working at it.
In his next post, he talks about why he does not carry a gun, although guns are ubiquitous in Baghdad.
How do I stay with the pain and suffering and not be overwhelmed? How do I resist the welling up of rage towards the perpetrators of violence? How do I keep from disconnecting from or becoming numb to the pain?
After eight months with CPT, I am no clearer than when I began. In fact, I have to struggle harder and harder each day against my desire to move away or become numb. Simply staying with the pain of others doesn’t seem to create any healing or transformation. Yet there seems to be no other first step into the realm of compassion than to not step away.
Needless to say, Tom Fox is not a spy pretending to be a peace activist. He is a Quaker and has been all his life.
There is courage in the physical fighting that our men and women in Iraq engage in every day, but there is courage too in the spiritual battle that Tom Fox and the other members of CPT have been put through.
Our weapons are spiritual, and not carnal, yet mighty through God, to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin and Satan, who is the author of wars, fighting, murder, and plots. Our swords are broken into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, as prophesied of in Micah iv. Therefore we cannot learn war any more, neither rise up against nation or kingdom with outward weapons, though you have numbered us amongst the transgressors and plotters. The Lord knows our innocency herein, and will plead our cause with all people upon earth, at the day of their judgment, when all men shall have a reward according to their works.
-From the Quaker Testimony of Peace presented to King Charles II.Powered by Sidelines