A renewed appeal for the lives of four kidnapped Christian peace activists in Iraq was issued two days ahead of the Dec. 8 deadline set by their kidnappers.
On Tuesday, the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) in Iraq released a statement on its website, pleading for the captors to immediately release the four colleagues unharmed.
In a videotape broadcasted by the Arab satellite television network Al Jazeera last Friday, the Iraqi kidnappers vowed to kill the hostages unless the U.S. and British governments free all prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers, setting the deadline for this Thursday.
In its statement, the CPT Iraq team expressed deep concern to the safety of the captives.
"We are very concerned about our friends, the statement read. We would very much like to know that they are in good condition"
In the statement, CPT emphasized that its position and its work are all for the benefit of Iraqis saying, "We believe there needs to be a force that counters all the resentment, the fear, the intimidation felt by the Iraqi people. We are trying to be that force: to speak for justice, to advocate for the human rights of Iraqis, to look at an Iraqi face and say: my brother, my sister."
Though CPT acknowledged that "the action of kidnapping is wrong," the group did not condemn the captors because it "recognizes the humanity in each person" and "respects it very much."
Meanwhile, the CPT offices in both United Kingdom and United States condemned the military actions of their respective governments in Iraq in the same statement.
"We appeal to your humanity to show mercy on our brothers and let them come back safely to us to continue our work," the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman of the Chicago-based organization CPT, Peggy Gish, told Reuters in Amman that the group is praying and has high hopes with so many Islamic leaders speaking out publicly and calling for their release."
Gish particularly welcomed Muslim scholars and activists who appealed earlier this week for the release of the four Christians peace activists, according to Reuters.
On Saturday, Iraq's largest Sunni Muslim party called for the release of Western hostages in Iraq, saying such kidnappings tarnish the image of Islam and will have negative effect on those who call for ending the U.S. military presence.
"These leaders understand we are not missionaries trying to change the religion of anyone [and] that we respect the Islamic religion, said Gish. It is very helpful for us that the people who know us and know our work are speaking out.
Gish denied the accusations of the captors, who said her colleagues were spying under the cover of Christian peace activists.
Actually these are men who have been working for peace for most of their lives," Gish said to Reuters. They are very caring gentle people.
They would never be spies or trying to harm anyone."
Gish added that it was "dehumanizing" how the captors have treated the peacemakers, according to the horrible picture that came out from those videos.
Less than two days remain now before the deadline that the kidnappers have set to kill the peacemakers. According to Reuters, Gish said, "We are realistic about the dangers, about the possibilities that it could be a tragic ending but we have hope."
The British Foreign Minister Jack Straw on Monday underlined the government's refusal to negotiate with kidnappers or pay ransoms, but he added that the government is ready to hear what the captors say, according to Associated Press (AP).
The U.S. President George W. Bush also said on Tuesday that the United States will work for the return of American captive in Iraq, but will not submit to terrorist tactics, AP reported.
"We, of course, don't pay ransom for any hostages," Bush said.
Two of the four western hostages are Canadians while the remaining two are British and American. They were identified as Thomas W. Fox, 54, from Virginia; Professor Norman Kember, aged 74, from London; James Loney, aged 41, from Toronto; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, aged 32, a Canadian who has recently been studying in New Zealand.
The four were reported missing in Baghdad on Nov. 26. The abduction was unveiled after an Iraqi group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade released a footage showing the four last Tuesday. Churches and Christians worldwide have been praying for the captors and the safe release.