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Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War [Hardcover]

James Loney
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 19 2011
The powerful account of the remarkable peace activist kidnapped while leading a peace delegation and held for ransom by Iraqi insurgents until his paradoxical release by a crack unit of special forces commandos.

In November 2005, James Loney and three other men — Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, British citizen Norman Kember and American Tom Fox — were taken hostage at gunpoint. The men were with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that places teams trained in non-violent intervention into lethal conflict zones. The then unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade released videos of the men, resulting in what is likely the most publicized kidnapping of the Iraq War. Tom Fox was murdered and dumped on a Baghdad street. The surviving men were held for 118 days before being rescued by Task Force Black, an elite counter-kidnap unit led by the British SAS. Captivity is the story of what Jim described upon his return to Toronto and reunion with his partner Dan Hunt as "a terrifying, profound, transformative and excruciatingly boring experience." It presents an affecting portrait of how Jim came to be a pacifist and chronicles his work in Iraq before the kidnapping. It brings the reader immediately into the terror and banality, the frictions, the moral dilemmas of their captivity, their search to find their captors' humanity, and the imperative need to conceal Jim's sexual identity. It examines the paradoxes we face when our most cherished principles are tested in extraordinary circumstances and explores the universal truths contained in every captivity experience. At its heart, the book is a hope-filled plea for peace, human solidarity and forgiveness.


From James Loney:

Why I Wrote This Book

I often wondered, during those excruciating days of handcuffs and chains, fear and boredom without end, would I ever get to tell anyone about the strange and bizarre things that happened during our captivity? Being transported in the trunk of a car. Sleeping with my left and right hands handcuffed to the person beside me. Explaining to the captors how to use “men’s gel.” Picking open our handcuffs after watching a Hollywood movie.

It is a paradox. I went to Iraq as a pacifi st on a mission of peace and was kidnapped, threatened with death and held hostage with three other men until we were rescued in a military operation. It is an extraordinary privilege to be able to tell the story of this paradox, to explain why I remain committed to the principles of nonviolence despite the fact a member of our group was murdered and our freedom was secured by armed force. The crucible of captivity was a kind of school in which I was able to see the innermost workings of the universe, how we are all connected, how our liberation is inextricably tied together. I want to share this story in the hope of contributing to the emergence of a world without war, the single greatest challenge of the 21st century. Everything depends on this, for without peace nothing else is possible.

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Review

"This incredible story captures all the beauty and the ugliness that we humans are capable of. It is a reminder that grace is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. It is a heart-wrenching and timely invitation to become extremists for love in a world where hatred often hijacks the headlines."
—Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical and Jesus For President
 
"During 118 days of agonizing and terrifying Captivity, James Loney strained to see the humanity in his captors; to see himself through the other's eyes, to see even the work of peacemaking with that radical sympathetic doubt which is the heart of peacemaking. . . . His riveting story illuminates the potential that impassioned commitment to non-violence may yet hold for human and planetary survival."
—Kathy Kelly, peace activist, author and three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize
 
"An exquisite testimony to the human spirit and the healing that comes through forgiveness of those who have wronged us, and an uplifting reminder of the excellent work being done by the Christian Peacemaker Teams around the world. Anyone who wishes to live in a world of peace and justice should read this book to understand the central role of love and generosity in global healing."
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of Embracing Israel/Palestine and editor of Tikkun
 
"[Captivity] is a book about freedom, the freedom of all human beings to decide on how we will respond to the conditions around us. Loney's integrity throughout his 118 days as a captive in Iraq, his indomitable spirit, his refusal to succumb to hate, his capacity to humanize his captors, his faithfulness to his comrades in Captivity, his refusal to yield to anything but compassion-all testify to an extraordinary mensch."
—Farid Esack, Islamic Liberation Theologion and Head of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg
 
"Jim Loney is one of the toughest and most gentle prophets on behalf of justice and peace in North America today, an amazing blend of idealist and realist. His kidnapping as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq in 2005 represented a watershed moment for those experimenting with a non-violent presence in warzones, and the profound lessons he draws in this book are deeply personal and political. An epic and exemplary story."
—Ched Myers, author of Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus

About the Author

James Loney is a Canadian peace activist, writer and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Based in Toronto, he has served on violence-reduction teams in Iraq, Palestine and First Nations communities in Canada. In November 2005, he was kidnapped along with the CPT delegation he was leading and held hostage for four months. One member of the group was murdered, an American named Tom Fox. The surviving three were released in a military operation led by British special forces.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Aug. 29 2011
Format:Hardcover
Loney's book carried me away from the first page. It's a terrifying read, not so much because of the potential violence that hovers behind each page, but because of the emotional, political and ethical turmoil it provokes.

How do you create peace in the center of unrelenting violence and despair? How do you live day after day with fear? How do you deal with the boredom of captivity, shackled to the same people in the same room, navigating their coping strategies even as you develop your own? How do you hold on to your values, principles and beliefs as your world condenses to a few square feet and the ever-present threat that even that may yet be lost? How, in the midst of all this, do you maintain any sense of humor let alone sanity? And how, ultimately, do you love the neighbor that's too close, (the fellow captive), and the enemy that's too strong (the captor)?

The questions that 'Captivity' elicited for me are bigger than Loney's experience. They forced me to reflect on where we're going as humans, and what it means to truly live faith in our time. It's a book that defies summary. It's a book that needs to be read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every War Needs a Cloak Aug. 1 2012
Format:Hardcover
James Loney has written a book about what it's like to live in fear of being killed on a kidnapper's whim, shackled to your fellow peace activists. At the same time he shows that the triumph of the human spirit can prevail amidst the conflicts between four friends literally thrown together during the most violent days of the American war in Iraq. The Christian Peacemaker Team activist manages the tricky feat of compelling storytelling whileat the same time sketches vivid portraits of the three men with whom he shared some four months of captivity. Deftly interwoven through this compelling tale are the author's passionate but sharp reflections on the nature of war and peace. "Every war needs a cloak...to conceal that it is really a rotten, stinking corpse....a reason, a story to explain why it is necessary." This personal story explains why a group of pacifists risked their lives to put an end to mass, organized violance.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This life experience of James and his fellow peacekeepers was a lesson of true Christian love. The 4 members showed their unselfish caring for each other and all humanity throughout their ordeal. In trying to maintain a human connection with their captors they showed extreme courage. We need to stem the violence in this world. Hopefully and soon for the sake of our future generations all sacrifices will not be in vain. In meeting James personally I was honored and awed by his genuine, kind consideration for all humanity.
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James Loney, author, peace activist and member of a team trained by Christian Peacemaker Teams for non-violent intervention in lethal conflict zones, shared his thoughts with me recently in his Toronto home. James Loney and three other men - Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, British citizen Norman Kember and an American, Tom Fox were taken hostage at gunpoint in Baghdad in November 2005. A day-by-day memoir chronicling James imprisonment transformed from a notebook during imprisonment has become a published book: `Captivity: 118 Days In Iraq And The Struggle For A World Without War'.

I tell James that while reading his book I was struck with how real and how vulnerable the captors seem and how he reveals the captors human side when most people would want to write about how evil and horrific they are without including anything that would make them seem human. James tells me that he wanted to see his captors this way. He wanted to see their human side, to make a connection, to survive. I add that I had a difficult time reading the book because I felt like I was right there with him in captivity. At times this was fascinating, but at other times, frightening and I needed to take a break. I quickly add that this is what is great about reading the authentic writing of another's experience, I have the privilege of vicarious travel, taking a break, releasing myself from captivity, where he didn't.

James laughs, "That's what I tell people. While writing `Captivity', I used to get up every morning and go back to being kidnapped and held captive again." I laugh, too. James tells me most people don't laugh when he says that. I think I know why. What he experienced is too graphic to laugh about. Maybe they think it would be rude to laugh at another's misfortune.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivity, A Breathtaking Masterpiece Aug. 18 2011
By Theresa Vallotton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Captivity is a Masterpiece! It is beautifully written. It literally took my breath away at times for the insight, as well as the suspense. Illuminating and profoundly compelling, Jim Loney lays himself bare. He tells the raw personal truth in this most grueling and excruciating of circumstances. From the darkest of places in the human heart to the very light of grace, he gives voice to all of humanity. It is difficult to express the astounding depth and breadth of this true story. I had followed the captivity of Jim Loney and his colleagues closely, praying in earnest for them. I am so very grateful to now know what happened.
It is a must read!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heart-filled Oct. 10 2013
By Jean - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I learned a lot about the Iraqi point of view and about the kidnapping I knew very little of. It contained history as well as a heart filled account of the 118 days. Was well written.
5.0 out of 5 stars What happens when hatred meets compassion? Aug. 27 2012
By Lorin Peters - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is beautiful and moving - I read it very slowly over many days and weeks.
I am still wrestling with its truth - it is profound and challenging.

`Junior' (the most abusive of Jim's captors) mimes being a suicide bomber and wiping out American soldiers - they had killed his family in the bombing of Fallujah. Jim is mortified, and finally finds a way to give Junior hope and a desire to go on living - back massages.

Junior whispers in tears on his prayer mat - his 17 year-old sister is dying. Jim, who is sick himself, and his fellow captives promise to pray for her. Junior is deeply grateful, and promises medicine, and eventual freedom.

Jim writes to the soldiers who `rescued' him, "I am unspeakably grateful... But the gun is still in charge and nothing has really changed. I have begun to see that there is no such thing as `American freedom' - there is only human freedom. The gun will never make us free (- it can only make us) a slave of fear, going around and around in a spiral of death, becoming more and more like the thing that we hate."

It is audacious to say to the one who has harmed you, no matter how seriously, "I forgive. I no longer hold you. You may go; your destiny is your own. You are free. Go without expectation, obligation or libation. Go with my blessing: May you be healed of your violence. May you be reborn in the knowledge of your forgiveness. May you start a joyous new life of giving life."

"When we forgave our captors, something extraordinary happened: the captivity suddenly made sense. It had a purpose. It had become a seed of healing, a seed of forgiveness."
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivity is spell-binding! July 10 2012
By Rosalie G. Riegle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Captivity made me realize that in some ways, we are all captive--captive by what we need, by what holds us captive, whether it be material goods or ideology. It also, and this was surprising to me, made me see the world with brighter, more hopeful eyes. I had expected the opposite--that learning more of the incredible suffering of both captives and the Iraqi captors would reaffirm my general hopelessness about the state of the world and the Middle East in particular. But in the end it didn't.

So that you, too, might perhaps experience this change of heart first hand as a reader, I won't tell you why I ending my reading with this conclusion but say simply that reading the acknowledgements after I finished the narrative made me realize the complex and beautiful web of peace people that surrounded James Loney, Norman Kember, Harmeet Singh Sooden, and Tom Fox, the American who didn't survive. Throughout my reading, I was haunted by the paradox that Jim mentions in the "Introduction," that the three who weren't murdered were rescued by the very institutions of war they work to abolish. From that paradox I realized anew the inescapable truth of the oneness of all humanity.

I've known Jim for years as a Catholic Worker colleague and I remember driving through dark and snowy Chicago streets to pray with the Christian Peace Team on that first awful night when the four were kidnapped. I followed the news stories, vigiled for their release, and read the sanitized versions of their ordeal, but didn't let myself think in particulars about what they might be going through. But Jim's honest rendering made me know with a hard knowing what it means to be a captive. Yes, there were the physical constraints of being chained and hungry and rarely able to bathe. Even more compelling to me were the wrenching days of living with guards who didn't speak English and could never be believed and the even harder task of living with the other captives. All four had been schooled in nonviolence and techniques for community living, but they still found it incredibly difficult to survive the strain of handcuffed and unrelenting togetherness. When I read the details--the weeks without toothbrushes and the filth of their prison--and the different ways each had of dealing with such a complete loss of freedom, I couldn't help asking how I would have coped. Would I have been able, as Jim did, to be angry and impatient but yet turn to God in faith? To massage my captor's sore muscles? Or would I have subsided into the deafly prison fog I know from Shoa literature and from my oral histories of peacemakers who serve time in US and European prisons?

Reading Jim's remarkable recall of the changes his spirit endured throughout the ordeal, the wrenching decisions he made, the grace that carried him through, was a life-changing experience. Thank you, Jim, for your candor in showing us the soul of a survivor.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and powerful book Oct. 6 2011
By pinelady - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
James Loney was one of four members of a Christian Peacemaker team held in captivity in Iraq for over three months. James Loney wrote notes during captivity and observed carefully - feelings, events, captor/captive relationships. His painful conflicts around what is the right thing to do to respect the humanity of the captors without being subservient to them are especially interesting. He does not spare himself. It is an introspective work as well as one rich with detail. Read it and talk about it with friends.
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