Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Captives with Mellissa Fung and James Loney @ The Ottawa International Writers Festival

I finally dragged my sorry behind out to a Writers Fest event last night; I was terribly sad to miss much of this spring's programme (bad timing with new job, training, and generalised exhaustion).

The Citizen's Kate Heartfield moderated readings by and discussion with Mellissa Fung (CBC reporter kidnapped in Afghanistan, author of Under an Afghan Sky) and James Loney (peace activist, writer and member of Christian Peacemaker Teams kidnapped in Iraq, author of Captivity). The readings were gripping, and the discussion was really interesting. I was saying to The Husband that it was nice to have two different perspectives on some of the issues that came up relating to Canada's role in combat and peacekeeping in both countries.

Here are some quotes I really enjoyed:
  • James, speaking about working on his memoir, Captivity: "It felt like every day I was getting up to go to work at the kidnapping."
  • Mellissa, speaking about religion versus education: "War is not so much about knowledge as ideology."
  • James, speaking about the Canadian government's role in Afghanistan and the importance of peacekeeping efforts: "Taking those F-35 planes and using them for something else!"
  • Mellissa, speaking abouther evening rituals: She found herself and her captor "praying to different gods on opposite sides of the room." She said she still wasn't sure how to reconcile that.
  • James, speaking about Canada's combat role: "We cannot build democratic societies through the barrel of a gun. We need to move away from this and work together so that soldiers don't have to do what they do."
  • Mellissa, speaking about her assaut, recovery, and return to Canada: "I'm here; I'm OK. It's something that is happening every day to women who don't have the freedoms I do."
James, also, especially talked about his struggle with the paradox of his being in Iraq "for peace and being rescued through violence." While his time in captivity confirmed his belief in non-violence, he was rescued by combat soldiers, and owes his life to them. Speaking briefly about the sacrifice that his American co-captive, Tom Fox, made (Fox was killed two weeks prior to James' release), James said simply, "I wasn't asked to do that."

Kate also encouraged an interesting discussion about two kinds of faith: the spiritual beliefs that got Mellissa and James through their captivity, and the faith in their convictions that were the reasons they were in Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place.

On a complete side note, my derrière was utterly, completely numb after sitting on a pew for 2 hours straight. Guess I have lost my talent for that.

Also, I am sort of embarrassed to say that I think it's totally adorable that Mellissa Fung and Paul Workman are a couple.

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