Thursday, March 30, 2006


I am so incredibly thrilled about the news that Christian Science Monitor writer Jill Carroll is free! Following her story in the past few months has made me so anxious, given the awful outcomes that have happened to other kidnapped Americans, such as Daniel Pearl and Tom Fox. At a time when things are spiraling out of control in the Middle East, this news, however small in the larger scheme of things, renews my faith that all is not hopeless in our world. Thank God. I am only imagining the happiness and relief Jill's family must be feeling right now.

It makes me think back to another close call this past fall - involving another Carroll. (No relation.) This time, it was an Irish journalist named Rory Carroll who was kidnapped in Baghdad. Few people in America heard about his disappearance, but I did because his mother, Kate, was our tour guide when Steve and I were in Ireland in August and September, and we grew to love her very much. On the evening of Oct. 19, she e-mailed me with a message that made my heart drop: "My beloved son, Rory, has been captured in Iraq.  He (we) need all the prayers that you can spare." The following day, after I opened the e-mail, I was unable to work. All I could do was pull up news reports on Google to find out what was happening. That afternoon, good news came: He had been released after just 36 hours. He was in good spirits and had been treated well, just like Jill Carroll is reporting. He even joked about singing U2 songs and drawing exaggerated maps of the British Isles to convince his captors that he was Irish, not British or American. What's more, his freedom came on his mother's birthday.

On MPR's Midmorning program today, I caught part of an interview with Ahmed Kathrada, a South African anti-apartheid activist who spent 30 years imprisoned on Robbin Island with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisalu and other political prisoners. (He has a new memoir out.) He talked about how the men kept their spirits up even as they labored in a lime pit and were treated unequally according to the grade of their racial makeup. (As a man of Indian descent, Kathrada was given more sugar in his coffee and more meat for dinner than the black men; and he was allowed to wear socks and long pants, a privilege not allowed blacks because they were considered "boys," not men.) I was riveted by the interview, in part because Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom is one of the books that changed my life when I read it a few years ago. I was so profoundly moved by the way Mandela (and others with him) treated their guards with dignity and humanity even when that treatment was denied them. His kindness and compassion, combined with an integrity that caused him never to back down from his beliefs, left a lasting impression on me. That they ever would be released from Robbin Island seemed like an impossibility at times, so their freedom after 30 years was a thing of joy.

What a good day for freedom.

No comments: