British national Terry Waite was kidnapped by Hezbollah
25 years ago. He was held in captivity for five years, during which he was beaten and tortured. Last week he returned to Lebanon
and met with senior figures in the organization, urging them to leave the past behind and intervene on behalf of Christian Syrian refugees.
Waite, now 73, arrived in Beirut in 1987 as an emissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury,
the religious leader of the Anglican Church,
in an attempt to secure the release of western hostages who were being held by Hezbollah, among them British citizens. He had previously succeeded in releasing hostages in Iran and Libya, however Hezbollah suspected he was a spy and took him prisoner.
A young Waite. (Photo: Gettyimages)
During his time in captivity Waite was held in isolation. During most hours of the day he was tied to a radiator, beaten repeatedly and was even forced to undergo mock execution.
The path of forgivness
Last week, Waite returned to Beirut, together a crew from The Sunday Telegraphy which documented his trip. There he met Hezbollah's International Relations Official Aamar Moussawi, and told him that the major motivation for the trip was first and foremost to tell him that the past is the past, and that it is where is should remain. He then raised the cause of Christian Lebanese and the plight of Syrian refugees.
Waite told his host Moussawi that in western eyes Hezbollah is a misguided terrorist organization.
He told Moussawi that Hezbollah will do itself a great service this Christmas if it would support the refugees. He claimed such an action would have a positive ripple effect in Lebanon. According to estimates, some 100,000 Christian refugees have fled Syria since fighting broke out in the country.
“I believe that reconciliation between larger groups, political groups, has to begin here with our own personal reconciliation,” Waite said. “Now people in England will say Terry Waite speaks in favor of Hezbollah? They will say 'this man is crazy’ and I will say 'we all must move forward’. The only way to reconciliation is to grow and not to look back but look to the future,” he told Moussawi.
"Consorting with terrorists"
The Brit did not ignore the international criticism his actions would probably invoke, saying in statement that Hezbollah has a very negative perception in the West, admitting that there would be those who would accuse him of "consorting with terrorists.”
However, in the statement he argued that it is important to remember that Hezbollah has grown into a political organization with members in the Lebanese legislature and is hence in a unique position to advance peace in the region. He added that the only way forward was the path of forgiveness.