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BosNewsLife (03/11/06) – Christians on Saturday, March 11, mourned the death of American Tom Fox, who was among four Christian peace activists kidnapped in Iraq last year.

In a statement the Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed his body was found Thursday, March 9, near a west Baghdad railway line with gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

“In grief we tremble before God who wraps us with compassion. The death of our beloved colleague and friend pierces us with pain,” said Fox’s employer, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international conflict resolution organization.

CPT said it remained concerned over the whereabouts of Fox’s fellow CPT hostages: Canadians James Loney, 41, Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, and Briton Norman Kember, 74.

They were last seen in a video dated February 28 that was broadcast Tuesday, March 7, on Arabic television news channel Aljazeera. CPT already expressed surprise at the time that Fox did not appear in that brief footage.

NEW PLEA

“We renew our plea for the safe release of Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember. Each of our teammates has responded to Jesus’ prophetic call to live out a nonviolent alternative to the cycle of violence and revenge,” the group added in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.

The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claimed responsibility for kidnapping of the four workers, who disappeared November 26. There have been allegations that militants linked to the Interior Ministry are involved in kidnappings as religious tensions rise, but authorities have not confirmed these reports.

The US military in Baghdad said American forces picked up Fox’s remains on Thursday, March 9, and there were reports that there were signs of torture on his body. Interior Ministry official Falah al-Mohammedawi told reporters that Fox was found with his hands tied and gunshots to his head and chest. There were also cuts on his body and bruises on his head, The Associated Press (AP) news agency quoted al-Mohammedawi as saying.

“HEARTFELT CONDOLENCES”

CPT said it extended it had extended “heartfelt condolences to the family and community of Fox, with whom we have traveled so closely in these days” of crisis. “We mourn the loss of Tom Fox who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone.”

However the organization and friends of Fox, who was 54, have urged supporters to stay away from seeking revenge. It quoted Fox as saying recently that CPT rejects “violence to punish anyone.” In a letter the day before his kidnapping, Fox meditated on the Bible’s vision of love.

“I have read that the word in the Greek Bible that is translated as “love” is the word ‘agape’. Again, I have read that this word is best expressed as a profound respect for all human beings simply for the fact that they are all God’s children.”

“[However] I would state that idea in a somewhat different way, ‘as never thinking or doing anything that would dehumanize one of my fellow human beings’,” he wrote in the letter released by CPT.

INNOCENT IRAQIS

He expressed concern over the many innocent Iraqis who he said were among those killed in the hunt for terrorists. “We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization,” Fox wrote about what he saw as his mission in Iraq . “We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God’s children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls,” he added.

CPT said he had been “profoundly grateful” for the support it received from moderate Muslims around the world. “Their graciousness inspires us to continue working for the day when Christians speak up as boldly for the human rights of thousands of Iraqis still detained illegally by the United States and United Kingdom ,” the group added.

News of Fox’s death came as a major setback for Anas al-Tikriti from the Muslim Association of Britain, who went to Baghdad to try to secure Kember’s release in December reportedly, said that it might be possible to open negotiations with the abductors.

While not everyone agrees with CPT’s opinions, the group has come to symbolize mounting international concern over religious violence in Iraq and fears of a possible civil war in the country.