Baptist aid worker kidnapped in Iraq

Baptist aid worker kidnapped in Iraq

Klaus Rösler - November 30, 2005

B a g h d a d / L o n d o n – A Baptist aid worker from Great Britain has been kidnapped in Iraq along with three other Westerners. Norman Kember (74), a former secretary of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, was taken with two Canadians and an American in a potentially dangerous district of western Baghdad. It is not known who seized them. Friends of Norman Kember, formerly professor of medical physics at London’s St. Barts, said it was his first visit to Baghdad and he was promoting non-violence.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman confirmed that Prof Kember had been kidnapped but said that no more details could be given. Pat Kember, the wife of the missing professor, said he was “representing a number of different organisations” in Iraq.

An official from one of the peace groups that Prof Kember is involved with was not aware that he was even in Iraq: “He is a friendly and affable person and very committed to what he believes – a man of a great deal of resources”, the official said.

Writing on a Christian website earlier this year, Prof Kember said that his work promoting peace was not hazardous. “Now personally it has always worried me that I am a ‘cheap’ peacemaker”, he wrote. “Being in Britain talking, writing, demonstrating about peace is no way taking risks like young serviceman in Iraq.”

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (London) said Britain is “working on the basis it is a kidnapping.” But he ruled out paying a ransom.

A spokesman of the Canadian government confirmed that the four aid workers were kidnapped on Saturday, November 26. But he would not reveal the name of the organisation that the two Canadians worked for.

It is estimated that over the past year and a half, at least 200 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq.

The General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, the Revd Tony Peck (Prague), has appealed for Baptists in Europe to pray for the four hostages and their release.

Amanda Allchorn (Didcot), Director of the communications department of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “Professor Norman Kember has been a consistent campaigner on peace issues all his life, and he was travelled to Iraq as a peace activist. He is a long standing member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship and of College Road Baptist Church in Harrow, and our prayers are with his wife and family at this time.”