118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War
By James Loney
(Vintage Canada, Paperback, 9780307399281, 432pp.)
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
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The powerful account of the remarkable peace activist kidnapped while leading a peace delegation and held for ransom by Iraqi insurgents until his paradoxical release by a crack unit of special forces commandos.
In November 2005, James Loney and three other men — Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, British citizen Norman Kember and American Tom Fox — were taken hostage at gunpoint. The men were with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that places teams trained in non-violent intervention into lethal conflict zones. The then unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade released videos of the men, resulting in what is likely the most publicized kidnapping of the Iraq War. Tom Fox was murdered and dumped on a Baghdad street. The surviving men were held for 118 days before being rescued by Task Force Black, an elite counter-kidnap unit led by the British SAS. Captivity is the story of what Jim described upon his return to Toronto and reunion with his partner Dan Hunt as "a terrifying, profound, transformative and excruciatingly boring experience." It presents an affecting portrait of how Jim came to be a pacifist and chronicles his work in Iraq before the kidnapping. It brings the reader immediately into the terror and banality, the frictions, the moral dilemmas of their captivity, their search to find their captors' humanity, and the imperative need to conceal Jim's sexual identity. It examines the paradoxes we face when our most cherished principles are tested in extraordinary circumstances and explores the universal truths contained in every captivity experience. At its heart, the book is a hope-filled plea for peace, human solidarity and forgiveness.
From James Loney:
Why I Wrote This Book
I often wondered, during those excruciating days of handcuffs and chains, fear and boredom without end, would I ever get to tell anyone about the strange and bizarre things that happened during our captivity? Being transported in the trunk of a car. Sleeping with my left and right hands handcuffed to the person beside me. Explaining to the captors how to use “men’s gel.” Picking open our handcuffs after watching a Hollywood movie.
It is a paradox. I went to Iraq as a pacifi st on a mission of peace and was kidnapped, threatened with death and held hostage with three other men until we were rescued in a military operation. It is an extraordinary privilege to be able to tell the story of this paradox, to explain why I remain committed to the principles of nonviolence despite the fact a member of our group was murdered and our freedom was secured by armed force. The crucible of captivity was a kind of school in which I was able to see the innermost workings of the universe, how we are all connected, how our liberation is inextricably tied together. I want to share this story in the hope of contributing to the emergence of a world without war, the single greatest challenge of the 21st century. Everything depends on this, for without peace nothing else is possible.
James Loney is a Canadian peace activist, writer and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Based in Toronto, he has served on violence-reduction teams in Iraq, Palestine and First Nations communities in Canada. In November 2005, he was kidnapped along with the CPT delegation he was leading and held hostage for four months. One member of the group was murdered, an American named Tom Fox. The surviving three were released in a military operation led by British special forces.
"This incredible story captures all the beauty and the ugliness that we humans are capable of. It is a reminder that grace is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. It is a heart-wrenching and timely invitation to become extremists for love in a world where hatred often hijacks the headlines."
—Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and Jesus For President
"During 118 days of agonizing and terrifying Captivity, James Loney strained to see the humanity in his captors; to see himself through the other's eyes, to see even the work of peacemaking with that radical sympathetic doubt which is the heart of peacemaking. . . . His riveting story illuminates the potential that impassioned commitment to non-violence may yet hold for human and planetary survival."
—Kathy Kelly, peace activist, author and three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize
"An exquisite testimony to the human spirit and the healing that comes through forgiveness of those who have wronged us, and an uplifting reminder of the excellent work being done by the Christian Peacemaker Teams around the world. Anyone who wishes to live in a world of peace and justice should read this book to understand the central role of love and generosity in global healing."
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of Embracing Israel/Palestine and editor of Tikkun
"[Captivity] is a book about freedom, the freedom of all human beings to decide on how we will respond to the conditions around us. Loney's integrity throughout his 118 days as a captive in Iraq, his indomitable spirit, his refusal to succumb to hate, his capacity to humanize his captors, his faithfulness to his comrades in Captivity, his refusal to yield to anything but compassion-all testify to an extraordinary mensch."
—Farid Esack, Islamic Liberation Theologion and Head of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg
"Jim Loney is one of the toughest and most gentle prophets on behalf of justice and peace in North America today, an amazing blend of idealist and realist. His kidnapping as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq in 2005 represented a watershed moment for those experimenting with a non-violent presence in warzones, and the profound lessons he draws in this book are deeply personal and political. An epic and exemplary story."
—Ched Myers, author of Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus