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Peacemakers

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BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott

Every day since Dec. 7, Bill and Genie Durland (pictured) have led a brief vigil for Christian peace activists taken hostage in Iraq in late November.

At Camp Casey, the ragtag site of anti-war activism that stands downtown in front of Toons Music and Film, they gather with friends, stand silent and pray against bloodshed.

But their worst fears were realized Friday, when word came that one of the hostages, Tom Fox, an American and fellow member of the Christian Peacemaker Team, had been killed. His body was recovered in Baghdad.

The Durlands had briefly met Fox at the Chicago headquarters of the CPT, an international organization that asks peaceful Christians to rise against violence. Its mission has brought members to the heart of lethal conflicts like the one dragging on in Iraq.

The CPT has documented 14,600 Iraqis detained without explanation since the war began in 2003.

Following Fox's death, the Durlands pointed to a statement made by the peacemaker team: "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."

The couple continues daily vigils for the other CPT members taken hostage with Fox on Nov. 26, 2005: Norman Kember, who is British; Harmeet Sooden, a Canadian; and Jim Loney, another Canadian. The couple met Loney while working in Iraq just weeks prior to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion.

"The purpose, for us, is to hold [the hostages] in our hearts and our minds," Genie Durland said of the vigils. "It's a spiritual exercise."

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