Note: Pastoral Support Coordinator Bob Holmes delivered the following
eulogy for CPTer Tom Fox at a 2 April memorial service in Toronto. It has
been edited for length. People wishing to see the entire piece will find it
I was privileged to work on team with Tom in Baghdad last September and October and can tell you a little about this calm, centred Quaker who began each day before dawn on the roof of our apartment building doing yoga and meditating.
I can bear witness to his standing firm, giving in to neither anger nor fear, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with ordinary Iraqi citizens never knowing if they would be coming home each evening, given the daily danger of bombing, kidnapping, arrest and detention.
I was in awe of his peacemaking work with Iraqi Human Rights groups, especially the Muslim Peacemaker Team, and Tom’s stories of Shias and Sunnis, Muslims and Christians, Iraqis and Americans all working together in war devastated Falluja to create space for peace and a more just society.
Pastoral support being my specific role in CPT, I helped the Baghdad team plan a retreat [in the north of Iraq]–absolutely necessary for this highly stressed team. We would go Monday to Thursday.
On Saturday we received a call from the Palestinian refugee camp in Baghdad–6000 Palestinians, many born in Iraq of parents who sought refuge there as far back as 1948 and today are without Iraqi citizenship or passports, unable to travel or own property, employment and income meager at best. In the present lawless Iraq, these foreigners are often targeted by Iraqi police and army and fear for their lives.
A group had decided to attempt an exodus to Syria. Would CPT accompany them and help them through the ubiquitous police and army checkpoints along the way? They were leaving Tuesday.
Back home, late Saturday night, we anticipated a long, difficult consensus process to decide between a very much needed retreat in the north or an accompaniment of this beleaguered group to Syria.
Tom –suggested that if we took a little time to search our hearts in silence and listened carefully to the Spirit we might discover that the decision was not so difficult.
He was right. After our silent prayer together, it took only ten minutes to come to consensus.
I didn’t know that I was saying goodbye to Tom for the last time as he and Sheila and Beth boarded the pre-dawn bus in the refugee camp on Tuesday morning.
They made it to the border of Syria. Tom and the other CPTers spent three weeks camped there with the fleeing refugees before coming back to Baghdad and continuing their peacemaking. The Palestinians were finally received, six weeks later, into U.N. camps north of Damascus.
We’ll give Tom the last word.
“If Jesus and Gandhi are right–I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am against the soldier — I am to risk my life, and if I lose it, to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of [evil].
Standing firm is a struggle, but I am willing to keep working at it.