January 20, 1987: Terry Waite is taken hostage. He was born in 1939 in Bollington, Cheshire, England. His father was a policeman and neither parent was particularly religious. However, Terry showed a deep commitment to Christianity from an early age. As a young adult, he joined the Church Army, a social welfare organization based on the Salvation Army. In 1963 he was appointed Education Advisor to the Anglican Bishop of Bristol and assisted with the implementation of SALT (Stewardship and Laity Training) program for the diocese. As part of this roll-out, Waite mastered the T-group method of psychological training sometimes termed sensitivity training or human relations training.
In 1969 Waite moved to Uganda and worked with the first African Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. He traveled widely in East Africa while in this job. He, his wife, and their four children narrowly escaped death several times as Idi Amin’s successful coup occurred. Waite managed to form the Southern Sudan Project while there to help with aid and development for the war-torn region. In 1972 he was transferred to Rome where he worked with the Medical Mission Sisters. As an International Consultant he traveled throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. He returned to the UK in 1978 and began working for the British Council of Churches. Two years later he was appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assistant for Anglican Communion Affairs. In this capacity, he traveled the world.
In 1980, Waite was able to negotiate the release of several hostages in Iran. In 1984 he was able to mediate for the release of four hostages held by Colonel Gaddafi. He was successful again the next year. Because of political intrigue and international crises, his association with America compromised his position. The Islamic Jihad Organization still held hostages on January 12, 1987 when Waite came back to Beirut. He agreed to meet with the captors to negotiate a release on this day. He had been told the hostages were ill but when meeting with the captors, he was taken as hostage himself. He was held captive for 1,763 days, the first four years of his captivity spent in solitary confinement.
He was finally released on November 18, 1991. Soon after his release he wrote his first book, Taken on Trust, which was his account of his captivity. It became a best-seller in the UK and elsewhere. He opted to spend his life in study, writing, lecturing, and humanitarian endeavors. He has written three books and many articles for other magazines. In 2007, Waite offered to return to Iran to negotiate the release of British sailors held hostage. He returned, eventually, to Beirut to “reconcile with his captors and to lay to rest the ghosts of the past.”
The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately it destroys those who practice it. Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others, the light within them dies.
Freeing hostages is like putting up a stage set, which you do with the captors, agreeing on each piece as you slowly put it together; then you leave an exit through which both the captor and the captive can walk with sincerity and dignity.
Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly.
At the end of the day, love and compassion will win. – all from Terry Waite
Also on this day: Eeeeeeeeek – In 1885, LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented his roller coaster structure.
Game of the Century – In 1968, the UCLA Bruins met the Houston Cougars for a game of basketball.
Pearl Harbor – In 1887, the US Senate approved the Navy’s leasing Pearl Harbor.
Hail to the Chief – In 1937, FDR took his second oath of office as POTUS.