Photojournalist James Wright Foley, RIP

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 2.58.22 PMBy Kenneth Tanner

On August 19, American photojournalist, James Wright Foley, was savagely beheaded by ISIS. His execution was videotaped and released through social media by the Islamic State. James was taken captive in Syria in 2012 at Thanksgiving.

Dedicated to his craft and, like most in his profession, extraordinarily fearless, he’d also spent time as a captive in Libya during the recent civil war there.

A devout Catholic, he wrote about his experience with prayer as a hostage of the Libyans:

“I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

“Clare [American journalist Clare Gillis] and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone. …

“If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.”

To read more of his 2011 open letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, about his time in captivity in Libya, go HERE.

I cannot bring myself to witness his execution but to learn and know that so large a soul, or any soul, can be snuffed out with so little regard for his life, dignity, and beauty reveals, yet again, the darkness of this new tyranny. This is not a religious movement but a heartless fascism.

It’s also clear from his words to the Marquette community that any statement he made before his execution is a farce.

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim,” said his mother Diane Foley. “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world. We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.”

His memory in Christ is eternal, and The Lord will raise him.

Rest in peace, James Wright Foley (1973-2014)

Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and journalist.

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