Two who triumphed over terror. Books by former hostages in Lebanon are spiritual odysseys of trial, suffering, forgiveness, and eventual freedom
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Long after his release, he advises policymakers, ``Life is divinely given. Each person is to be respected and deserves to be heard. The captors themselves need to be set free. We are all recipients of God's mercy and forgiveness. On that basis we can begin to trust each other and find the constructive things we can do together as Christians and Muslims.... We must learn to live together.''Skip to next paragraph
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After his ``education'' about Shiite political grievances and Lebanon's recent history, Testrake said, ``Nothing we had done could justify the killing of Robbie Stethem. But I was beginning to understand some of their anger and see that they, too, had suffered for things they had not done.''
He says that shortly before his release, ``I realized that we were all victims. They were being held hostage every bit as much as we were. But whereas the ordeal was about to end, theirs seems likely to go on and on and on.''
And in an epilogue, he writes, ``There are two sides to the story. When we focus only on our own grievances it ensures that the violence and the terrorism will continue indefinitely.''
Robin Wright, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a former Middle East correspondent for the Monitor.
Did John Testrake become sympathetic to his captors?
Many critics of hostage commentaries charge that the hostages, after release, are victims of the Stockholm syndrome, an automatic, often unconscious emotional response by hostages that results in a feeling of indebtedness to their captors.
In a recent interview with Robin Wright, airline Capt. John Testrake tells why he disagrees with those who portray him as having succumbed to the Stockholm syndrome:
The Stockholm syndrome ... would tend to signify the warping of a person's opinions by events in which he is involved. I've sometimes been accused of suffering from the Stockholm syndrome since I seem to exhibit some degree of understanding of the Arab militants' positions. I'd make two points.
First, the captors who were holding me were all young men, aged 19-20 years old and had come out of primitive surroundings, mostly refugee camps, I would presume, and had had no opportunity for education. They weren't brilliant minds. They really weren't capable of instilling any so-called Stockholm syndrome in their listeners. So I prefer to think what I actually did was just to use my native intelligence, my common sense to look at the situation in which I found myself and to draw judgment based on the facts.
Second, a person who has supposedly suffered this impairment should correct his thinking once he returns to his former environment. But in my case, once I returned my curiosity had been so aroused at the events in which I had been involved that I picked up every piece of information I could to enlarge my understanding of the issues.
And I've discovered that in all the reading and listening that I have done in the almost two years since the event that not one single source which has been familiar with events in the Middle East has contradicted or changed my thinking in the slightest regarding any impressions which I reached on the scene.
I think that [former hostages have a different opinion than most Americans] because the majority of Americans, and that includes myself until I was involved in this [hijacking], are largely oblivious to the truth of what's going on, especially in such a remote, alien, hard-to-understand area as the Middle East. So it almost requires us to be involved in those situations to draw our attention to them and get our interest. That's why my interest was aroused.