And there has been no new news about the CPT hostages, or Jill Carroll, except that another deadline for Jill Carroll passed yesterday. Since I read those articles about kidnapping that I posted about earlier, I’ve been worried anew. Prior to reading the articles, I was puzzled about the motivations for the kidnappings. Then these articles offered an explanation, but not one I very much liked hearing. While news reports keep focusing on the political demands, what if these kidnappings are not so much about politics, but are about money?
I had already been puzzled because things did not match up if one looks at the situation just in terms of the publicized demands. In the case of the Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages, the demand was to free Iraqi prisoners. In the case of Jill Carroll, the demand was to release all Iraqi women prisoners. What doesn't match up is that the Christian Peacemaker Teams have already been concerned about Iraqi prisoners. According to their website, here is their mission in Iraq: "The primary focus of the team for eighteen months following the invasion was documenting and focusing attention on the issue of detainee abuses and basic legal and human rights being denied them. Issues related to detainees remain but the current focus of the team has expanded to include efforts to end occupation and militarization of the country and to foster nonviolent and just alternatives for a free and independent Iraq." And, similarly, Jill Carroll was also concerned about such issues.
And so, as soon as the captors’ sympathizers (and others) pointed out that these are not the people to kill because they themselves sympathized with the political demands the captors were making, the captors should have made a big show of letting them go as a gesture of mercy that would make a powerful statement in support of their political agenda.
But this is not what has happened.
And I have had a hard time understanding this. What does it mean? What could be their real agenda, that justifies continuing to hold them all captive? All I can think of (after reading those articles) is that maybe the real motivation is money. Maybe the “negotiations” that we occasionally hear whispers of are about money.
If so, this adds a dimension that is very hard to sort out morally. Should families and/or governments give in to demands for money, if there’s hope that this would result in the release of the captives? What if that money inspires and funds future kidnappings? What if the money is used for other acts of violence? But what if everyone refuses to pay and the captives do end up getting killed?
It’s a classic case of a moral dilemma, and some would argue that in these cases it is important to choose the lesser of two evils. But part of the evil of such situations is the forcing of innocent bystanders into looking like they are the ones with the ultimate moral choice in their hands. This is, however, an illusion. Any harm that gets done from this point on is still the full responsibility of those who set up the dilemma. So I think if I were a family member, I would keep saying, “it is you who have the power in this situation to do the right thing and free my innocent family member. By taking my family member hostage, you have already broken trust with me. There is no way I can know whether you really will release [her or him] unharmed even if I do pay the ransom. You are the only one who really has the power here, and I hope and pray that you will do the right thing. I hope and pray that your soul is noble and good. It is you who must choose, and the right choice is to choose to do good for the sake of goodness itself.”
Certainly if I ever am kidnapped, this is how I would hope that my own family and friends would respond.
But this is not about me, or any of my own family members. So I don’t blame any of hostages or their family members if they think and do otherwise. All of them are victims to evil in this situation: and the evil is in large part the way that they are given choices that are not really choices—no matter what they do, it is not really their own choices that determine their fate, but the choices of the captors. This is why I pray for the captors – I pray for their moral insight and moral strength. Although the situation they have created is evil, I do not regard them as evil. I regard the word “evil” as applying only to actions and situations, not to people themselves, because I believe that there is the potential for goodness within everyone, and it is that that I try to draw out in prayer.