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Peace activist and former hostage James Loney speaks about Captivity

This profile of author and peace activist James Loney appears in the May issue of Q&Q.

Scott MacDonald writes:

Blocked writers will talk of feeling chained to their desks or held hostage by manuscripts, but in the case of James Loney, the analogy contains a grain of truth. The Toronto peace activist made international headlines five years ago when he was kidnapped in Iraq with three other men and held hostage for nearly four months. Loney, 46, recently wrote a full-length account of his ordeal “ Captivity, published in April by Knopf  Canada “ and says the writing process did entail some of the same existential boredom and anxiety of imprisonment.

It was excruciating to write, says Loney, laughing at the memory. It bored me to tears. If I had to figure out one more way to describe being locked up that wasn’t repetitive, I would’ve slit my wrists.

Every morning, Loney would sit down and force himself to put in an eight-hour day at the computer. He quickly learned to escape via napping. Sometimes I would have eight to 10 little mini-naps each day. It was like I was overcome with fatigue.

Loney persisted, however, and readers will likely be grateful he did. Captivity is a thoughtful, well-written first-person narrative. It also functions as a notably un-preachy exploration of Loney’s long-held belief in non-violence. He left for his third trip to Baghdad in November of 2005 as part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an international organization that asks members to step into volatile situations and defuse them through peaceful intervention. One of his first tasks was to meet with the hardline Muslim Scholars Association as part of a fact-finding and outreach effort. At the meeting, Loney knew something was up almost immediately due to the oddly hostile behaviour of his hosts.

Read the rest of the profile.