What it took from the hearts of many people to free Jill Carroll

By

Ah. The sweet taste of freedom. Journalist Jill Carroll, released Thursday after nearly three months in captivity in Iraq, is savoring it. So are her family, and her colleagues here at the Monitor. But we also know this: freedom doesn't come without commitment.

As a newspaper, the Monitor is committed to freedom of the press. Information, independently reported, is key to understanding. That principle is exactly what motivated Jill when, on assignment for this newspaper Jan. 7, the freelance journalist was kidnapped in Baghdad, and her translator, Allan Enwiya, killed.

Jill devoted herself fully to communicating the complex story of Iraq. She learned Arabic. She worked appropriately in Iraq, dressing as a Muslim woman would.

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She is also one of many journalists the world over who prove their commitment to a free media by putting their lives on the line to report from dangerous places.

With 60 journalists killed in Iraq so far, that country has been the deadliest for the media in the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. This is not the first time a reporter working for the Monitor has been taken hostage.

In 1995, during the Bosnian war, staff writer David Rohde disappeared as he reported on his Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of the massacre at Srebrenica. In 1970, while covering the Vietnam War, Elizabeth Pond was captured in Cambodia by the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese, and Khmer Rouge. Through persistent prayer and effort, both were released.

That same persistence was absolutely vital to securing Jill's release. As soon as she was captured, many, many people swung into action with tireless commitment. Monitor editors and reporters, along with Jill's family, pursued all possible avenues for assistance. Late at night and early in the morning, from the start of this ordeal until its end, they were aided by US, Iraqi, Jordanian and other government officials, as well as private organizations, such as Reporters Without Borders.

The Iraqi and Jordanian media also provided vital assistance. Individuals, too, persevered, with countless people praying for Jill every day.

It takes courage to stand for freedom - for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and for lives free from oppression and violence. Certainly, it took courage for Jill herself to hold out hope during captivity.

It took strength for her parents to calmly and resolutely demand her release in countless television interviews, not knowing when, or if, their pleas would reach Jill's captors or pay off.

And in a region which seems to drink in violence like mother's milk, it took courage for Muslim clerics to go against the grain of radical Islamist thinking and publicly and consistently denounce hostage taking and killing as a means to an end. Where does this courage come from? It can only result from a faith in freedom's enduring value as a God-given right, an ever-present condition that liberates individuals and societies, allowing them to walk on the path toward limitless possibilities. This is what makes hope more than just an empty gesture.

The wonderful thing about freedom is that the more people experience it, the more committed they become to it. And that is why hope for other hostages in Iraq and elsewhere is not in vain.

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