Behind the Christian Peacemakers' trip to Iraq

A videotape Tuesday showed three of the four hostages, who have been held since November.

More than 100 days after the abduction of four of their peace activists in Iraq, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) says no contact has been made with the group holding them, and no communication from the hostages has reached their families. A silent videotape showing three of the four members aired on Al Jazeera TV Tuesday.

"We are not aware of any contact made with those who are holding our four team members. We continue to pray that the four are released soon and brought home to their families," says Jessica Phillips, of the CPT Chicago office.

Briton Norman Kember, and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden appeared on the tape. American Tom Fox, of Clearbrook, Va., was not visible. The tape was stamped with the date, "28 2 2006."

Al Jazeera says the hostages asked their governments and Gulf nations to help win their release. In a January video, a group calling itself Swords of Righteousness claimed the men were spies and threatened to kill them unless all Iraqi prisoners are released.

"We do not know what to make of Tom Fox's absence from this video," CPT said in a statement. "However, we do know what motivated Tom and his colleagues to go to Iraq. Tom wrote on the day before he was taken, 'We are here to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. How we take part in the creation of this realm is to love God with all our heart, our mind, and our strength, and to love our neighbors and enemies as we love God and ourselves.' "

A Christian Peacemakers Team continues to work in Iraq, and is active on human rights issues related to Iraqi prisoners. "The team has been helping Iraqis find out information about their loved ones and where they are, and how they might get letters or clothing to family members who are being detained," Ms. Phillips says.

Formed by Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers in 1984, CPT says its ministry is "to devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war." It trains international teams to support local peacemaking efforts. A team has been active, for example, in Hebron on the West Bank, where flash points have developed between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents. CPT has been in Iraq since 2002, and calls for an end to the US and British presence.

This past weekend, vigils were held in several countries to mark the 100th day of the men's captivity. Mr. Kember, a retired professor of medicine in London, is a longtime pacifist. Mr. Sooden is a Canadian electrical engineer studying to become a teacher. Mr. Loney, a mediator and CPT coordinator in Canada, was heading the Iraq delegation.

A Quaker involved in youth programming, Mr. Fox is a father of two and a musician. He went to Iraq in 2004, colleagues say, as a man who believes "there is that of God in every person."

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