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Liverpool prays for hostage

THE BISHOP of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, and the chairman of the Liverpool mosque, Akhar Ali, issued a joint appeal on Tuesday to the militant group who were still holding hostage the British engineer, Kenneth Bigley, as the Church Times went to press.

The message to the captors, in English and Arabic, read: "In the name of God the merciful One, we as Muslim and Christian leaders in Liverpool appeal to you as believers to have mercy."

Speaking on Today on Radio 4 on Wednesday, Mr Ali condemned the beheading of hostages as "cold-blooded murder" and as "completely and utterly un-Islamic".

On the programme, the Bishop reiterated the importance of Christians’ and Muslims’ standing up to show that they could work together.

The Revd Trevor Latham, Team Rector of Walton-on-the-Hill, in Liverpool, was unaware until he saw reports on Tuesday’s breakfast news that Mr Bigley’s mother and other family members were at a house close to the parish church. He dropped a card through the letterbox suggesting a vigil. More than 250 people arrived for the vigil service on Tuesday evening. More came and went as the evening progressed.

During the service, Mr Latham was tapped on the shoulder by a churchwarden to say that another American hostage, Jack Hensley, had been killed. "This announcement came in the context of a silent, prayerful vigil — I had to decide what to do. The reaction was tangible, with audible intakes of breath," he said. "I asked people to pray for the soul of Jack Hensley and for his family."

Mr Latham met some of the family after the service. The Bigley family is Roman Catholic, and a priest from the Metropolitan Cathedral took communion to them on Tuesday.

Canon’s work continues. Canon Andrew White, international director of the Iraqi Institute for Peace, was having talks with government officials in the United States this week, after his departure from Iraq on safety grounds ( News, 10 September). His team in Baghdad was still doing hostage work, but had had little success in the past few weeks, Canon White said on Tuesday.

"The reality is that there are two types of hostage-taking: the economic and the political," he said. "People are often taken for economic reasons, but are sold up the train for political reasons, to whoever is willing to pay the highest price."

Canon White is dismayed by the worsening political situation in Iraq, and acknowledges his hope to be more theological than political. "But we mustn’t give up," he said.

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