With the prospect of war between the U.S. and Iran on everyone’s minds, my thoughts have been turning to Tom Fox.
Tom was a member of Langley Hill Friends Meeting and was involved for many years in youth programs for Quakers in the Washington, D.C. area. When the Iraq War began, he joined Christian Peacemaker Teams in support of nonviolent resolution of conflict in the country. In November 2005, he and three other CPT members were taken hostage by a terrorist group; four months later, Tom’s body was discovered in a garbage heap in Baghdad with gunshot wounds. (The other hostages were later rescued.)
There have been many moving remembrances of Tom’s life—I particularly recommend this essay by John Stephens, which outlines how a concern for the breakdown of communion, in all senses of the word, animated his peace work. But I recently read through the blog he kept while he was in Iraq, and it was chilling how well he described what he was up against: not just the violence and civic unrest he saw all around him, but how war feeds on both the noblest and basest aspects of ourselves, as in this post from February 2005:
The force of war has three central aspects. First it requires a tremendous deal of energy. Both external, physical energy and the internal drive to carry out the external aspects. Second it requires tremendous organization and teamwork. To take on the implementation of a war plan requires a great number of human beings working together. Third it requires a unified vision of purpose. Goals must be established and everyone plays a part in their successful outcome. Unified vision, teamwork and energy are all very good things to make use of to bring about the creation of the Peaceable Realm. But in the case of warfare all of these aspects come from a reverse image- and that reverse image comes from the negative, parasitic energy of Satan. [Emphasis added. –I.S.] Satan acts as a mimic of God but a mimic guiding us in the opposite way. It functions just as a mirror reverses everything it displays. Instead of compassion there is vengeance; instead of justice tempered with mercy there is redemptive violence. Creativity is harnessed to discover new and more effective ways to kill each other instead of working to discover new and more effective ways of communicating with each other.
Quakers don’t have a tradition of venerating their martyrs, but I have found the example of Tom Fox to be both an inspiration to me, and a challenge: that the cost of discipleship is real, if you are true to your calling. I don’t know what will happen with this current conflict, but everyone of good will should pray that they be given some of Tom’s courage in standing against the drumbeats for more war.