Former hostage and author Terry Waite to speak on faith and public service at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


Humanitarian and author Terry Waite, a former hostage negotiator who was once held hostage for nearly five years himself, will present the inaugural lecture for the Ignatian Residential College at Fairfield University on Monday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The lecture/discussion, entitled "Personal Faith, Public Service" is part of the Open VISIONS Forum, a program of University College.

A generous gift from the Lilly Endowment funded the establishment of the Ignatian Residential College, an academic program for selected Fairfield University sophomores. Students in the program live together in Loyola Hall, enroll in specially designed Ignatian College courses and engage with adult mentors in small mentoring communities. In addition, they have opportunities to participate in special lectures, cultural events, communal worship and partnerships with local faith communities.

Waite's lecture topic is an apt reflection of his life. With a keen interest in humanitarian concerns, international relations and conflict resolution, he drew international attention in the 1980s by successfully negotiating the release of hostages in Iran and Libya. His life took a fateful turn in 1987, when, while negotiating for the release of Western hostages in Beirut, he was taken into custody. He spent five years in captivity, four of which were spent in solitary confinement.

In the years that followed his ordeal, Waite has written three books, including a memoir of his detainment, "Taken on Trust" (Bantam Books, 1994). He lectures extensively and works with humanitarian groups striving for compassion and understanding around the globe.

"We put so much emphasis on political agreement, but a lot more work has to be put into human understanding between cultures," Waite told a reporter recently. "We must learn how to live with differences. We don't all have to be the same, and we shouldn't be."

Born in Cheshire, England, in 1939, Waite sought higher education in London. Upon graduating from college, he was appointed Education Advisor to the Anglican Bishop of Bristol, England, a post he held until he moved to East Africa in 1969. In Uganda, he worked as Provincial Training Advisor to the first African Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, a job that meant extensive travel throughout East Africa. Waite, his wife, Frances, and their four children, were in Uganda during the Edi Amin coup.

From his office in Kampala, Waite founded the Southern Sudan Project and was responsible for developing programs for aid and development for this war-torn region.

In 1972, Waite was invited to work as an International Consultant to a Roman Catholic medical order. From his family's new home base in Rome, he traveled throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America, conducting and advising programs that fostered intercultural relations, development, health and education.

In 1980, the Archbishop of Canterbury made Waite part of his private staff. As an advisor, he was responsible for many of the archbishop's diplomatic and ecclesiastical exchanges. Two year later, he successfully negotiated the release of several hostages in Iran after Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution. In 1983, he negotiated with Colonel Muammar Khadafi for release of British hostages in Libya.

However, in January 1987, while in talks for the release of Western hostages in Lebanon, Waite was taken captive by Shiite Muslims. He lived in a tiny room with metal shutters on the windows and no natural light. His feet and hands were often chained to the wall and he was blindfolded whenever someone entered the room. He had no books or news from his family or the outside world.

"I have a greater understanding of people now," he has said of his experience. "I know what is is like not to have any human dignity, to be pushed around, to be sick and not have medicine.

"The ordeal has made me stronger. I would not want to go through it again. The experience has marked me but not negatively."

Following his release in September 1991, Waite wrote "Taken on Trust," an international bestseller, and devoted himself to studying, writing, lecturing and participating in humanitarian efforts. His second book, "Footfalls in Memory: Reflections from Solitude," (Doubleday, 1997) is a collection of poetry, prayers and prose that he read throughout his life and used to maintain hope and peace throughout his captivity.

In addition to his writing, Waite is founder/chairman of Y Care, the international development wing of the British YMCA, and founder/trustee of the Butler Trust, a group that works in prisons in the United Kingdom. He is also a member of the Advisory Council of Victim Support.

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Waite the rank of Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was the 1985 BBC Man of the Year, is a recipient of the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal and has honorary degrees from the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of the City of London, Liverpool University, Yale University Divinity School and several other institutions.

Waite said his ordeal has left him with a better understanding of hatred and, ultimately, justice.

"Violence is no way to seek solutions," he has said. "I'm utterly and absolutely convinced that hostage-taking is a secondary factor, and the primary factor is injustice. We must begin to tackle radically those situations where people are living in deprivation."

Tickets for Waite's lecture are $18, $15 for students and senior citizens. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 19, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 234