God's Politics

“Norman, Harmeet and I have forgiven our captors,” says Jim Loney in yesterday’s op-ed to The Toronto Star. “Our reason is very simple. We’ve had enough with bombs and guns and gallows.”

Sojourners and I spent many an anxious moment while our compatriots in Christ with the Christian Peacemaker Teams were held captive in Baghdad between November 2005 and March 2006 (see Sojourners December 2006). In the end, this saga of modern martyrdom ended in the tragic death of Tom Fox and the ultimate release of Jim Loney, 42, Harmeet Singh Sooden, 34, and Norman Kember, 75, by British and American soldiers.

In November 2006, Jim, Harmeet, and Norman were told that an unspecified number of men alleged to be their kidnappers were in U.S. custody. According to Loney, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Scotland Yard asked them to testify in a trial to be conducted in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (see Paul Brenner’s authorization for the formation of the CCCI). An RCMP officer indicated, “The death penalty is on the table.”

A recent report from the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq says the CCCI “consistently failed to meet minimum fair trial standards.” Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark calls the CCCI a “meat grinder.” “It reminds me of the reign of terror in Paris,” he says. “You guillotine some, imprison others–it’s unclear who’s more fortunate.” Amnesty International (AI) says at least 100 people have been executed and at least 270 more have been condemned to death by the CCCI.

In a May 23 op-ed to The Toronto Star, Loney told the RCMP that he won’t testify:

I cannot participate in a judicial process where the prospects of a fair trial are negligible, and more crucially, where the death penalty is a possibility. The death penalty is the legalization of blood vengeance. It is a cruel, degrading and irrevocable judgment. Take away the fancy legal rationale and the dignified court proceedings and what remains is an act of murder, plain and simple, no different than what was done to Tom Fox. Capital punishment is a manifestation of the very violence it claims to deter. Those who kidnapped us and murdered Tom were swept into a vicious cycle of violence and retribution for violence that was put in motion in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq and its continuing occupation.

Jim ends his statement by saying, “We want to see an end to all killing, regardless of the reason. Capital punishment is simply the legal face of the dead-end cycle of violence and retribution for violence that is destroying Iraq. We want to see something genuinely new and different, a future that begins with the power of forgiveness.”

This is an example of who we are as Christians. Death – and all its attendant principalities and powers of violence cloaked in the lie of necessary evil – has no dominion over us. This is the freedom that we are offered in Christ.

Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor of Sojourners magazine.

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