Humanitarian Terry Waite speaks on captivity, faith and hope in Thursday’s Gathering

Humanitarian Terry Waite speaks on captivity, faith and ...

Humanitarian Terry Waite speaks on captivity, faith and hope in Thursday’s Gathering

The Lipscomb community gathered on Thursday to hear Terry Waite, a globally known humanitarian and peace worker, speak in The Gathering at Allen Arena.

Waite was introduced by university president Randy Lowry, who called Waite a “hostage negotiator,” paving the way for Waite to share his story of captivity and survival with students.

In 1987, Waite was taken hostage while negotiating the release of several hostages in Beirut. Before his abduction, Waite had been recognized for championing the release of hostages in Iran and Libya, all in the 1980s.

Waite said his approach to negotiating the release of hostages meant that he had to meet the abductors face-to-face. It is a “risky approach,” Waite said, but worth the effort.

“The first thing was to seek a face-to face meeting,” said Waite, who is the scholar-in-residence in Lipscomb’s Institute of Conflict Management this year. “Now, that is risky, because you are dealing with people who are often in a precarious situation, who are highly suspicious and who may well easily take you captive.”

This approach, Waite said, requires a level of trust, especially when working with people from different backgrounds and different beliefs.

“Somehow, you have to be able to stretch out a hand and form a bridge, and grasp the hand of the other in order to build a relationship of trust,” Waite said.

Waite went through his entire negotiating process, building trust and relationship, and seeking a face-to-face meeting with those in Beirut. He was on his way to meet them, or so he thought, when he was abducted. It was not until he had already been held captive for five days that he realized what had really happened.

“Three things came to mind in that moment,” Waite said. “I was angry. I was angry with myself for taking such a risk, angry with my captives for breaking their word. I didn’t eat for a week.”

Emotion seeping into Waite’s voice, he continued to tell his story. Waite said his knowledge of God’s power and grace is what helped him survive during that time.

“I could say this to my captives, you have the power to break my body. You have the power to bend my mind, but my soul is not yours to possess,” Waite said. “My soul lies in the hand of God.”

Waite encouraged students to remember that suffering does not have to destroy, but can produce new things that strengthen faith.

“Just keep one thing in mind, a symbol of the faith is the cross,” Waite said. “The cross is the symbol of suffering, and beyond the cross lies the hope, the hope of which I can speak.”

Photo credit: Erin Turner

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