Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden, and James Loney, the three Christian Peacemaker Team members held by Iraqi militants for 118 days last year have responded to the arrest and trial of their captors much in the way anyone familiar with their organization would expect - with unconditional forgiveness and an unequivocal condemnation of violence as a means of justice.
We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us. We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what was taken from us.
What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families and our friends great suffering. Yet, we bear no malice towards them and have no wish for retribution. Should those who have been charged with holding us hostage be brought to trial and convicted, we ask that they be granted all possible leniency. We categorically lay aside any rights we may have over them.
In our view, the catastrophic levels of violence and the lack of effective protection of human rights in Iraq is inextricably linked to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. As for many others, the actions of our kidnappers were part of a cycle of violence they themselves experienced. While this is no way justifies what the men charged with our kidnapping are alleged to have done, we feel this must be considered in any potential judgment.
Kidnapping is a capital offence in Iraq and we understand that some of our captors could be sentenced to death. The death penalty is an irrevocable judgment. It erases all possibility that those who have harmed others, even seriously, can yet turn to good. We categorically oppose the death penalty.
As one who spent many agonizing moments in prayer and reflection on their abduction last year (having considered going to Iraq with CPT myself), emotions rush back to the surface as I remember their lives hanging in the balance. On the other side of that Advent, I marvel at how their lives - and that of their fallen colleague Tom Fox - continue to shine as witnesses to the Prince of Peace and power and possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Ryan Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.