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Campus Responds to Death of Peace Worker Tom Fox

Posted on March 13th, 2006

News of the death of Tom Fox, 54, a Christian Peacemaking Team worker held hostage in Iraq, has been an especially difficult blow for those who knew him at Eastern Mennonite University.

U.S. forces in Iraq recovered the body of kidnapped Christian Peacemaker Teams activist Tom Fox, CPT confirmed on Mar. 10.

Tom Fox (seated right) participates in a Christian Peacemaker summer camp in an undated photo. Fox was absent from footage of hostages being held in Iraq that was broadcast by Al-Jazeera on Tuesday. Tom Fox (seated right) participates in a Christian Peacemaker summer camp in an undated photo. Fox was absent from footage of hostages being held in Iraq that was broadcast by Al-Jazeera on Tuesday.
AP Photo / Christian Peacemaker Teams Iraq, File

Fox, a Quaker from Clearbrook, Va., was found by Iraqi police with his hands bound and with gunshot wounds to the head and chest the evening of Mar. 9, according to the Associated Press. When police saw the body was that of a Westerner, U.S. military authorities were called to the scene, reports said.

Fox had studied one semester in EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding graduate program before going to Iraq as a CPT peace worker. He was kidnapped in Baghdad Nov. 26 along with fellow CPTers Norman Kember, 74, a Briton, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32. The four were seized at gunpoint by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade and have been shown in videos released by the group, which has demanded the release of all detainees in U.S. and Iraqi prisons.

The most recent video, a silent 25-second clip that aired on Aljazeera Mar. 7, showed all of the hostages except Fox.

Memorial Service Planned

A memorial service to reflect Fox’s life and work will be held 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 15, in Lehman Auditorium.

The service will include hymns, scripture reading, visuals, candlelighting and reflections by persons who knew Fox, with an emphasis both on “the meaning of Tom’s life and mission as a Christian peacemaker and remembering his three fellow CPTers and others still being held captive” in Iraq.

The service is open to everyone.

Professors and Staff Respond

Lisa Schirch, associate professor of conflict studies in EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacemaking, had Fox in her “strategic nonviolence” course at EMU.

“May we all hold every human being in Iraq in our prayers as the trauma, anger, fear and sadness rages on and on,” Dr. Schirch said in response to Fox’s death. “And may we all find a way to renew our own personal efforts to transform those energies into something more positive.

“Let us remember Tom for the bravery and hopefulness that came with his determination to be in Iraq to monitor human rights and provide a different kind of American presence there – one that sought to be in solidarity with the suffering,” Schirch added.

EMU President Loren Swartzentruber, in Florida during EMU’s spring break for development contacts, issued a statement to the campus community:

“Tom’s death, while serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams, reminds us of the tragic deaths of people of all nationalities through senseless violence around the world. I agree completely with a statement from Carol Rose, co-director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, quoted in the news – ‘In response to Tom’s passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done.’”

“Please pray for Tom’s family, co-workers, friends and for CJP faculty member Lisa Schirch and others on our campus who knew him personally,” the president said.

‘Break the Cycle’

Ruth Zimmerman, co-director of EMU

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