Friends, Admirers Remember Tom Fox

Just as they have done since Tom Fox was taken hostage in Iraq last year, fellow Quakers sat in silence Saturday praying this time not for him, but those who killed him.

More than 30 people gathered at the Hopewell Centre Meeting for a memorial service for Fox, whose body American forces picked up near a railroad in Baghdad on Thursday. He had apparently been tortured before he was shot in the head and chest.

Fox, 54, was the only American in a group of four Christian Peacemaker Teams members taken hostage last year by a previously unknown group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.

The fate of the other hostages — James Loney, 41, of Toronto; Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer; and Norman Kember, a 74-year-old retired British professor — is not known.

Palestinians throughout the West Bank also expressed sorrow Saturday over the killing of Fox who had traveled to the area to protest for their cause before he was taken hostage in Iraq.

Fox had demonstrated in the West Bank town of Jayyus against Israel's construction of a separation barrier with the Palestinians and he helped Palestinians pick olives, local Palestinians said.

"Tom used to sit in front of the (Israeli) bulldozers to block them," said Jayyus' mayor, Shawka Shamha. "Hearing news that he was killed makes me very sad."

Fox worked with incarcerated Iraqis, often serving as the only link between them and their families on the outside. Fox also escorted shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals and worked to form an Islamic Peacemaker Team.

Bob Sekinger, a longtime member of the Hopewell Centre, where Fox would worship often when home in Clear Brook from his four-month stints in Iraq, said Fox knew the dangers but considered his risks minimal compared to the number of Iraqis who had been killed.

"With him I pray for those who persecuted and killed him," Sekinger said. "I pray for the people of Iraq."

A binder filled with Fox's "notes from Iraq," including pictures, Web log entries and e-mails, the most recent dated Nov. 18, 2005 — eight days before his capture — sat on a table inside the meeting house, the Winchester Star reported.

"Tom was committed to his work in Iraq and gave his life in an attempt to bring justice and peace to the Iraqi people," the meeting said in a statement. "He was not naive about the dangers he faced; he felt that his work was of utmost importance and was willing to face those dangers with love and courage."

At Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, where Fox had been a member for many years, friends and those who knew Fox only through his blog entries gathered to remember him.

David Boynton, a member of Langley Hill Friends Meeting, told The Washington Post Fox wasn't the most charismatic speaker, but his passion for peace and the Iraqi people was inspiring.

"He was a man who listened to what God said and did it," Boynton said. "And that means any of us can do that."

Another memorial was planned at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, where Fox had been a student before going to Iraq in 2004.