A Lenten Letter to Tom Fox on the 10th anniversary of his death

Tom FoxBy Tim Nafziger, a reservist with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) living in London at the time of the kidnapping of four CPTers: Harmeet Singh Sooden, Norman Kember, Jim Loney and Tom Fox. For more background on Tom Fox’s story and his work with CPT see Pearl Hoover’s excellent essay The Sermon on the Mount in the Life and Death of Tom Fox.
Dear Tom,

On Christmas Day, 2004,
weeks after Margaret was kidnapped and killed
you wrote about an image that came to you:

“It was of a land of shadows and darkness. But within that land candles were burning; not many but enough to shed some light on the landscape. Some candles disappeared and it was my sense that their light was taken away for protection. Other candles burned until nothing was left and a small number of candles seemed to have their light snuffed out by the shadows and the darkness. What was most striking to me was that as the candles which burned until the end and the candles whose light was snuffed out ceased to burn more candles came into being seemingly to build on their light.”

Through that long winter one year later
we spent fourteen cold wednesdays with candles lit
counting the windows
on Trafalgar square

holding vigil for we knew not
what else to do,

wondering if all was in vain;
wondering whether we were right;
wondering if it was worth it.

The same risks as soldiers we said
Walk into the face of death Ron said

“If I am ever called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in love of enemy, I trust that God will give me the grace to do so.”
you said (and Sheila remembered).

These words we shaped with our teeth
flaming into the gale,
shadows flickering and dancing

on Alison
on the fourth plinth
on the corner
of the empty square
where so many have marched, have burned before, beneath Lord Nelson’s sandstone glare

3,243 miles away,
beyond the edge of the continent’s rim
you spent your last nights
separated from Harmeet, Norman and Jim:

quietly burning alone

promising release
they lied to you for the 105th time
they lied to you for the last time
for they know not what they do.

Do they Tom?

In London, the news was
a scarlet and orange sunset
too much too take in
all at once;


words collapsed, concrete as
bullets into your body
in an abandoned lot outside Baghdad.

This poem forms a seasonal triptych with A Good Friday reflection on Texas Hold’Em as Lenten Practice for a Mennonite Golden Boy and A Christian Peacemaker Team’s poem: Advent’s Eve, 2005.

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