Monday, March 13, 2006

The Martyrdom of Tom Fox


Friday night we heard the news that Tom Fox was dead. He had been held in captivity along with other members of Christian Peacemaker Teams for over one hundred days. The Quaker, the follower of Jesus, died of gunshots to the head and chest. They say he was beaten before his death.

This is a season of heaviness, a time to weep with those weep. It is a time to pray constantly. We are praying now especially for Tom Fox's family, for his wife and children, before whom an endless sorrow has suddenly opened. We are still praying for the other Christian Peacemakers still held hostage, Jim Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden, and Norman Kember. We say, "Let this cup pass from them! Let them not be put to the trial."

Tom Fox went to Iraq on a great mission of humanity and, properly speaking, of Christianity. He went also to weep with those who weep, and truly to rejoice with those who are rejoicing--because even in the middle of the most infernal suffering, there is still joy. There is still singing, and there is light.

What Tom Fox did, going to Iraq and working on behalf of the poor and the imprisoned, was a Christian act. And it was a Christian act because of the Incarnation. The fact that God became human has changed everything. There can be no more hatred among people, because we have finally been shown how truly each person is the image of God--how truly God lives in every person. In Iraqis, in Muslims, even in terrorists. Neither nationality nor religion nor the blackest of hatreds can undo God's presence in every heart. God's light overcomes all.

A number of commentators have said that Tom Fox's death should be a "wake-up call to naive peaceniks." Now, they say, the eyes of us who despise this God-forsaken war will be opened, and we will see how necessary it is to fight and kill. Now, they say, we will finally understand what it is to be hated. And they hope that we in turn will surrender to hate.

They are greatly mistaken; they do not see with the eyes of faith. They say, "Ah, now those who love peace will understand hatred, and join us in this war." But it is precisely when a person understands hatred that he must resist giving in to it. It is because people like Tom Fox understand hatred that they oppose war, and it is because they know Love Incarnate that they hand themselves over to people who are full of hate.

In all our weeping, it is very hard to remember that martyrdom is the crown of the Christian life. And though Tom Fox was not seeking to be a martyr, he knew it was possible--and it is what he became. Martyrs like Tom Fox are beaten and killed. But their deaths, so the Church reminds us, are triumphs. They are a sign to an unbelieving age and a real victory of the power of love over the power of death.

We can add to our many prayers this last one, that the sign of Tom Fox's death and birth into eternal life will be understood and heeded by our own age, which seems right now to be so blind and so lost. Our age demands that we respond to hate with hate, and meet anger with anger, violence with violence. But we have God to thank that Tom Fox has shown us a different way: to conquer hatred with love, anger with kindness, violence with trust.

'At last, all-powerful Master, you give leave to your servant to go in peace, according to your promise.'

Tom Fox, rest in peace!

-Mike Schorsch

1 Comments:

At March 23, 2006 11:15 AM, Blogger Bede the Venerable said...

One correction: CPT, having viewed Tom Fox's body, believes that he was not tortured.

 

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