Sunday, April 17, 2011

Honoring Tom Fox, Quaker martyr to pacifism, on Palm Sunday...

"The only thing that will tip the balance between planting [olives trees, symbols of peace] and uprooting is for all peoples, Jewish, Muslim and Christian to work together in solidarity. We must pray together. We must work together. We must continue to bring light to those from all faiths whose hearts are trapped in darkness. We must all find ways to root ourselves in the creation of peace." --Tom Fox, Quaker peace activist and martyr, qt. in "Tom Fox Was My Friend, Yours, Too" (ed by Chuck Fager and available through Kimo Press,

It seems appropriate to honor Tom Fox on this day when his friend Jim Loney will be leading a Palm Sunday Peace Parade in Pasadena. (See This parade was started by Mennonites and brings together people of many faith traditions to honor the "Prince of Peace." In my Universalist blog I talk about how Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem can be interpreted as a political demonstration challenging the Roman empire and its notion of peace (the Pax Romana). See

Tom Fox and Jim Loney were two of four Christian Peace Team members who went to Iraq to stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people (not to convert them) after the US invasion and occupation. They were kidnapped by some radical insurgents in November 2005. After 118 days, all were released, except for Tom, who was brutally murdered.

No Friend is better known throughout the world today, especially in the Muslim world. Fox speaks to the heart of our Quaker faith. Like Mary Dyer, Mary Fisher and other early Friends who were called to travel in the ministry, Fox was willing to risk his life to bear witness to the power of love and the Inward Light.
Fox was also part of the interfaith movement. Although he considered himself a Christian, he was open to spiritual insights from other religions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. He went to Israel/Palestine and listened to all sides in this tragic conflict. He lived side-by-side with the Iraqi people and took up their cause and their concerns. He showed by his example what it means to “walk cheerfully on the earth, answering that of God in everyone.”

When news of Fox’s death was announced, he was deeply mourned by the Muslim community, which will always remember and honor him. A young Muslim man I know named Yasir Shah wrote a letter to Friends Bulletin when he learned of Tom Fox’s death: “I’m heart-broken to say that it’s only recently that I’ve come to find out about such a courageous and dedicated man…. I believe that Tom Fox’s family, the American people, and the Iraqi people were blessed to have someone of his caliber to fight for them…Tom Fox embodied the characteristics of the leaders of the civil rights movement….[and] I pray that we increase our unity in the stand against injustice, and continue to strive for the rights of all humans.”

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