In Peace: Tom Fox

tomfox3Update 3/22/06: Those who saw Tom Fox’s body in U.S. say they didn’t see any signs of torture.

Update 3/14/06: Read reflections about and by Tom Fox at Iraq Diaries: Do Not Do What You Hate.” (It continues here.) In these excerpts, Fox quotes Gandhi, Jesus, Catholic theologian Rene Girard, and Buddhist Pema Chödrön:

The ability to feel the pain of another human being is central to any kind of peacemaking work. But this compassion is fraught with peril. A person can experience a feeling of being overwhelmed. Or a feeling of rage and desire for revenge. Or a desire to move away from the pain. Or a sense of numbness that can deaden the ability to feel anything at all.

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 I 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.”

“Here, Fox quotes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, from her book The Places that Scare You: ‘Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the nowhere place then compassion arises spontaneously.'”

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The body of Christian Peacemaker Team member Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Virginia, was found on Friday, 10 March, in Baghdad, his hands bound, gunshot wounds in his head, signs of torture on his body. He was being held by the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, along with Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney, and Norman Kember, who were shown in a video aired Tuesday on Al-Jazeera television.

The CPT Statement reads, in part:

“In response to Tom’s passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done. In Tom’s own words: ‘We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.’

“Even as we grieve the loss of our beloved colleague, we stand in the light of his strong witness to the power of love and the courage of nonviolence. That light reveals the way out of fear and grief and war.”

Associated Press story: Quakers Remember U.S. Hostage’s Mission describes Tom’s work and life:

“Fox worked with incarcerated Iraqis, often serving as the only link between them and their families on the outside. … Fox also escorted shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals and worked to form an Islamic Peacemaker Team. … Fox’s daughter Katherine described him as a wanderer, an outdoorsman and a listener. He also was a gifted musician, a former clarinetist with the Marine Corps Band in Washington. … He liked the calm of the Shenandoah Valley between his visits to Iraq.”

Reuters says there were signs that Fox had been tortured.

The banner of Tom Fox’ weblog, Waiting in the Light, whose last entry is dated Nov. 8, 2005, reads:

Be patterns, be examples in every country, place,or nation that you visit, so that your bearing and life might communicate with all people. Then you’ll happily walk across the earth to evoke that of God in everybody. So that you will be seen as a blessing in their eyes and you will receive a blessing from that of God within them.” — George Fox (early Quaker)

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