BEIRUT: Terry Waite, the British former hostage, met with Hezbollah in Lebanon last week, 25 years after he was taken captive by a group linked to the party.
Waite, now 73, was held for almost five years after he was taken hostage on Jan. 20, 1987, while working to secure the release of other British hostages as a special envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury.
During his trip last week, on which he was accompanied by British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph, Waite met with Ammar Moussawi and told the Hezbollah foreign relations official “that the past was the past,” according to an article he wrote for the newspaper published Sunday.
Waite was in Lebanon to bring attention to the situation of Christian refugees from Syria, and appealed to Moussawi for Hezbollah to provide more help for those in the Christian community who have fled violence.
“I expressed my concern for the Christian groups who were leaving Syria and asked if Hezbollah would make a gesture toward helping them, especially at Christmas,” Waite wrote.
Moussawi, in reply, “asked me to let him have a proposal, and he would see if something could be done.”
Waite was released in November 1991 after 1,763 days in captivity, most of which he spent in solitary confinement and chained to a wall. He wrote that he wanted to meet with Hezbollah as an example of the reconciliation he believes is necessary for coexistence in the region.
“I believe that reconciliation between larger groups, political groups, has to begin here with our own personal reconciliation,” the Sunday Telegraph quoted him as telling Moussawi during their nearly two-hour meeting, which took 48 hours of negotiations to set up.
Waite has once before visited Lebanon since being released in 1991, but last week represented the first time he has returned to Beirut’s southern suburbs, where he was held for the majority of his captivity.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said, “My encounters in the past had long lost any negative power they had over me, and I was determined to do what I could to make an individual act of reconciliation. As I said earlier, reconciliation between larger groups has to be made up of a thousand smaller acts of reconciliation.”
During his trip Waite also met with Christian Syrian refugees and wrote of concerns that the uprising in Syria “has now been hijacked by extreme jihadists and that, for the first time in years, religious persecution is taking place where once there was harmony.”
He also wrote of the importance of encouraging coexistence in Lebanon which he said “is rapidly becoming the only country in the entire Middle East where there remains a significant Christian presence.”