On this day in history : 20th January 1987 – Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is kidnapped in Beirut, where he had been attempting to negotiate the release of Western hostages….
Waite had been made Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs by Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie in 1980…. His role was to work with churches abroad organising the Archbishop’s overseas trips…. It was in this role that he became involved in the case of a group detained in Iran on spying charges and he managed to successfully secure their release….Then in 1984, after negotiating with Colonel Gadaffi, he managed to secure the release of four Britons held in Libya….
Over the following two years he was to become involved in trying to regain the freedom of four Americans being held in Lebanon by the Islamic Jihad Organisation…. He made three trips to Lebanon in all….
On his third and final trip he knew of the immense danger he was in…. He arrived in Beirut on the 12th of January 1987 to begin negotiations with the Islamic Extremist captors of the hostages….
He met with his contact who told him that the captors were willing to allow him to visit the hostages, who were apparently unwell and very depressed…. Naturally Waite expressed concerns for his own safety but was assured of safe conduct by his contact…. He asked for 24 hours to think about it and after much soul searching made his decision….
Waite felt that if he didn’t go and the captors were being truthful and had no intention of harming him or taking him captive, he would never be able to live with himself if one of the hostages were to die….
Of course, Waite was taken captive…. He was held for 1,763 days – the first four years of which he was kept in solitary confinement…. He was finally released on the 18th of November 1991, along with American academic Thomas Sutherland, who had been seized in 1985….