Oxford Friends Meeting members hold a vigil once a week to pray for and remember four hostages still believed to be in captivity in Iraq.
A group believed to be known as Swords of Righteousness Brigade kidnapped four members of a Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) serving in Iraq Nov. 26. The group was originally supposed to be executed Dec. 10 but were later seen in a Jan. 31 video, still alive. The group holding them hostage has repeatedly threatened to execute the group if allied forces do not release Iraqi prisoners.
Every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. a group from Oxford Friends Meeting, the Nottingham Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, comes together for a Christian Peacemaker Team Hostage Prayer Vigil. The vigil is open to the public, and the group hopes to attract those interested in seeing the unharmed release of the four CPT hostages.
CPT is a program of Brethren, Quaker and Mennonite Churches and other Christians that support nonviolence. Tom Fox, 54 of Virginia, and a member of a Friends Meeting in Langley, Va., was a one of the four CTP members to have been taken hostage. Fox worked with members of the Oxford Friends during the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends, which contains 49 meetings from central Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. areas. Fox was kidnapped along with James Loney, 41, of Toronto; Harmeet Sooden, 32, formerly of Montreal; and Norman Kember, 74, of Britain.
According to Suzanne Lamborn of the Oxford Meeting, the CPT members were helping to clean up the streets in Iraq. "They were doing manual labor and doing it peacefully," said Lamborn.
"They were trying to interact with the neighbors," said Ruth Galantio, member of Oxford Meeting.
Members of the Oxford Meeting have held the hour of silence every week since December. Messages are given occasionally, but the hour is mainly dedicated to prayer and meditation.
"The reason we are on the forefront is because we do get quiet and think beyond ourselves," said Lamborn.
Despite not being given any word on the status of the hostages since late January, the group remains optimistic for a positive outcome, and they will continue to hold the vigil.
"I am determined to keep this up," said James Madison, member of Oxford Meeting. "When it started people didn't think it could go on for too long."
Every year in August the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends takes place. It is here where Lamborn got to know Fox personally. Both worked extensively with fourth- and fifth-graders during the weeklong meeting. Lamborn was a teacher during meeting (now retired) and saw how much Fox loved working with the children.
"He (Fox) has been working with kids for a long time," said Lamborn. "He was a very spiritual person, and kids could relate to him."
The video that showed Fox and the other hostages still alive was time-stamped Jan. 21. Their captors said it would be their "last chance" if Iraqi hostages where not freed. Despite this, members of the Oxford Meeting, as well as the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends, believe that the group could still be alive and they are hoping that their safe return can be negotiated in a nonviolent way.
Oxford Friends Meeting is located at 260 S. Third St. in Oxford.