10 Questions for humanitarian and author Terry Waite

Terry Waite (PA Archive)

IT’S 25 years ago this month since Terry Waite was released after being kidnapped while visiting Lebanon as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special envoy.

He was put in solitary confinement and blindfolded for four years, most of which was spent chained to a radiator. His autobiography, Taken On Trust, has been updated and is published again this week.

Do people tiptoe around you?

No. I don’t think I was a broken man after my release or anything like that. I didn’t need special treatment, just time to adjust to a world that had changed. People accepted that for what it was.

What do strangers say when they first meet you?

They want to talk about my captivity, obviously, but they also say I give them a better understanding of what it’s like over there. And I learn lots from them too.

Are you more hopeful about the Middle East 25 years on?

Not at all. Now, at any given moment, the Middle East fall-out can cause incidents in any country across the world, and we have refugees fleeing, and dying, in numbers. It’s like World War Three.

How did this happen?

The current mess is a result, in my opinion, of our wrongful invasion of Iraq. Wittingly, or unwittingly, we have contributed to the situation ourselves.

Does it make your own experience seem pointless?

I don’t look at it like that. I don’t feel my experience was negative just because it didn’t improve things.

How do you look back on your kidnapping?

It was difficult but I was determined to use it positively to go on and work with the oppressed. I know what it’s like to be alone, to have no hope, no help. It gave me an impetus to work positively.

Is your relationship with God a trusting one after your experience?

Oh yes. I don’t blame my kidnapping on God for one moment.

So, what does your Faith bring you?

Having faith doesn’t protect you from the ups and downs of life but I believe it prepares you to handle them better.

What has been the most important life lesson you learned?

That the world is full of suffering, but that suffering doesn’t have to destroy us. Something creative can come from it too.

You have 24 hours left to live. How do you spend it?

I have had a lot of help over the years, as you can imagine, so I would do nothing other than go around all my family and friends to say thank you for all the wonderful things they’ve done for me over the years.


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