Canadian Mennonite
Volume 10, No. 06
March 20, 2006


In memoriam

And that in this work the second and the lower branch of charity unto thine even-Christian is verily and perfectly fulfilled, it seemeth by the proof. For why, in this work a perfect worker hath no special beholding unto any man by himself, whether that he be kin or stranger, friend or foe. For all men him thinks equally kin unto him, and no man stranger. All men him thinks be his friends, and none his foes. Insomuch, that him thinks all those that pain him and do him disease in this life, they be his full and his special friends: and him thinketh, that he is stirred to will them as much good, as he would to the homeliest friend that he hath.

A Christian monk wrote these words about 700 years ago in one of the church’s earliest books on contemplative prayer, The Cloud of Unknowing. According to Sheila Provencher of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), it’s a book that Tom Fox, the kidnapped and killed CPT Baghdad team member, read regularly in the early mornings as he prepared for his day. During the more than three months Fox was held captive, I wonder if the words above gave him strength for his suffering.

Fox lived out the Christian calling to have all be equally kin to him and none be his foes, even those that pained him—and ultimately killed him (see articles in Wider Church). “Again, if I understand the message of God, how we take part in the creation of this [Peaceable Realm of God] is to love God with all our heart, our mind and our strength, and to love our neighbours and enemies as we love God and ourselves,” Fox himself wrote the day before he was kidnapped.

Mennonites have a history of dying for what we believe, but very few of us need to live with the risks that Fox or his three kidnapped colleagues (whose status is still unknown), or Langley Mennonite Fellowship’s Greg Rollins face. (Greg came back to Canada in January and plans to return to Baghdad at the end of this month).

Shortly after Fox was taken, his daughter wrote, “My father made a choice to travel to Iraq and listen to those who are not heard. His belief that peaceful resolutions can be found to every conflict has been tested time and again, but he remains committed to that ideal, heart and soul. This is very difficult for my brother and me. We want to be with our dad again. I didn’t want him to go to a country where his American citizenship could potentially overshadow his peaceful reasons for being there. But this is who my father is and I am strengthened by it. I write this with the utmost respect and agreement with what he stands for.”

It does now appear that his earthly citizenship was a factor in his death. However, it was his heavenly citizenship that had a much bigger influence on how he lived his life and related to those around him. Sometimes, earthly liberation comes, such as in our rejoicing at the release of Mennonite pastor Pham Ngoc Thach in Vietnam earlier this month. My heart breaks that this was not the case here.

Jesus explains the verse Fox quoted by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that story, the Samaritan (the hated outsider) disregarded the political, religious and social barriers between Israelites and Samaritans to care for the wounded man he found. At the end of the parable, Jesus instructs his listener to “go and do likewise.”

Tom Fox took that teaching and lived it out among the Samaritans of our time. Thank you for your example, Tom.

—Tim Miller Dyck

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