Four antiwar activists from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, who came to Iraq, to oppose the war, but stayed after the occupation, in solidarity with the Iraqi people, were taken hostage in Baghdad, on November 26th. On November 30th, a released hostage video, accuses them of being spies. The hostages are two Canadians, one American, and one British. The group that took them are called the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, a previously unknown group.
The four are people of faith, but not missionaries. They have deep respect for Islam.
The group holding them is giving the USA to December 08th to withdraw, or hostages will be killed.
The member of a Christian pacifist organization, Harmeet Singh Sooden studied literature at the University of Auckland in New Zealand before traveling to Iraq.
The 32-year-old Canadian, an electrical engineer, previously studied at McGill University in Montreal.
A friend in New Zealand expressed shock at the kidnapping but added that his humanitarian efforts seemed natural.
"That would not surprise me that he went to help somebody," said Allison Reay, manager of his school residence in Auckland.
When Tom Fox would return from his efforts with the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, friends say he always made time for the children at a Quaker center.
Whether it was teaching kids about opposing violence or leading hiking excursions through the Shenandoah Valley during youth summer camp, Fox, 54, was an influential and loved role model, said Anne Bacon, the Quaker meeting clerk.
Bacon said Fox and other CPT members knew the danger of working in Iraq, "but their goals are still very clear — peace belongs to all."
When Norman Kember was 18, he chose to work in a hospital rather than serve in the the military. Now 74, Kember remained a pacifist, his family said.
"He feels very strongly that the occupation in Iraq is a mistake," the family said in a statement released before Al-Jazeera broadcast a video Tuesday of Kember and three other Western hostages in Iraq.
Kember, of northwest London, was a professor of medical physics at St. Bartholomew's Hospital until retiring 13 years ago.
Asked if visiting Iraq could be dangerous, he replied: "It could be."
James Loney spent many years working with Toronto's homeless before joining Christian Peacemaker Teams, friends say.
The 41-year-old Toronto community worker had been leading the group in Iraq before he was abducted.
"He's a deeply compassionate person. He's got a real sense of how important it is to be in solidarity and support of everybody who is in need or is marginalized," said Sarah Shepherd, a friend for 10 years.
Loney was arrested in 1991 outside the U.S. consulate in Toronto for protesting the Persian Gulf War.
Susanne Osthoff, a 43-year-old German archaeologist who is fluent in Arabic, helped distribute medical supplies in Iraq.
Relatives in Germany said that in recent years Osthoff had broken almost all ties with her family — including her 11-year-old daughter. During that time, she had been in and out of Iraq.
The German newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung reported that Osthoff received a kidnap threat last summer from extremists linked to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and that U.S. soldiers brought her from Mosul to Baghdad for her own safety.
There is a petition signed by people as Cindy Sheehan, Tariq Ali, Ralph Nader, Howard Zinn asking for their release. You can sign it at: PETITION
A German archaeologist, Susanne Osthoff, 43, also disappeared recently. On a video made public Nov. 29, kidnappers threatened to kill her unless Germany stops dealing with the Iraqi government.