A Light Shines in the Darkness

Tom Fox was profoundly affected by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He recalled the vision held by Quaker leader George Fox in 1647 who said, “I saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings.”

Tom Fox’s “great opening” led him to join Christian Peacemaker Teams in 2004. “While I knew very little about CPT at the time,” Fox told CPT co-director Doug Pritchard, “I had a clear sense that I wanted very much to find some way to pull us out of the darkness and move the world (even if it was the movement of one human being) toward the light.”

Fox served in Hebron, in the West Bank—protesting the separation wall, planting olive trees, and interviewing Palestinians whose homes had been destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces—and in Iraq, accompanying refugees and shipments of medicine, interviewing incarcerated Iraqis and assisting their families, and working with the Muslim Peacemaker Teams.

After Fox was killed on March 9, 2006, his body was held at the Anaconda military base in Balat, Iraq, where CPT/Iraq member Beth Pyles kept vigil with Fox for the next 36 hours. Because he had served in the U.S. Marine Corps band for more than 20 years, Fox’s coffin was draped in an American flag and shipped to Dover Air Force Base in the United States. Next to Fox was the coffin of an Iraqi detainee who had died in U.S. custody who was being transported to Dover for an autopsy. For Fox, Pyles read aloud from John’s gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). For his Iraqi companion, Pyles invoked the Muslim call to prayer, “Allah Akhbar” (God is great), and read from Job 1:21—“the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Back in Baghdad, CPT members erected an Iraqi funeral banner near the site where Fox’s body was found. It read, in beautiful Arabic script, “In memory of Tom Fox [found] in this place. Christian Peacemaker Teams declares, ‘We are for God and we return to God.’ To those who held him, we declare, ‘God forgave you.’”

“In Iraq I often heard Iraqis say that Tom had a pure heart—a big heart,” recalled CPT member Greg Rollins at a memorial service for Tom Fox held in Washington, D.C. “They said this not because he put his life in danger, but because he cared. He believed in following Christ’s call to love God and love your neighbor and your enemy as yourself. Some people said that Tom didn’t know what he was doing coming to Iraq, but Tom did know what he was doing. He was there to listen and to tell people outside of Iraq what was actually happening there.”

An Iraqi member of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams recently told Sojourners, “I told my Muslim friends that I was sure Tom would go to God because he was working for peace. They said, ‘But he’s a Christian.’ I answered them, ‘But he gave his life for us.’”

Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor of Sojourners.


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