Practicing Peace

Christian Peacemaker Teams members Norman Kember, Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney, and Tom Fox were kidnapped in Iraq on Nov. 26, 2005. The first three men were released after 118 days in captivity, but Fox was killed. Following is a reflection from Elizabeth Pyles, a Presbyterian minister and CPT member who works with CPT’s Iraq team.

"Tom’s dead.” This is what I wrote in my journal days after learning that Tom’s body had been found near railroad tracks in a neighborhood in western Baghdad.

In speaking with some soldiers about Tom a day or two later, I said, “Tom was killed.” It took several more days before I could say, “Tom was murdered.” Such a harsh word and reality, and so hard to believe, even after my attempt to accompany Tom’s body home.

The CPT team in Iraq made a commitment that whenever one or all of our kidnapped friends were released—healthy or sick, alive or dead—we would accompany them home. As I was the team member scheduled to leave Iraq next, I was chosen to accompany Tom’s remains.

A problem quickly developed: Though Tom was a civilian, the United States government required that his remains be taken by military transport to Dover, Delaware, for an autopsy. I received initial permission to accompany him, but got only as far as Anaconda Air Force Base in Balad, Iraq. There I was turned back two days later—permission denied.

In the meantime, I stayed on the base with the Army Reserve Mortuary Unit that received Tom’s body and would transport him home. The unit treated me with kindness and respect, and we spent time together in conversation during my vigil. Though it was decided I could not accompany Tom’s remains back home, I was allowed to walk with these soldiers onto the transport plane.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2008
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