St Mary's Church Charlbury with Shorthampton

Terry Waite in Charlbury

We were delighted to welcome Terry Waite to Charlbury. Terry Waite CBE co-founded Y Care International in 1984, serving as the first Chair and now as President. Terry visited Charlbury because of the connection between St Mary’s and Y Care International, to engage interest and action in creating opportunities through jobs and enterprises for young people. Find out more about the crucial work of Y Care International at:

St Mary’s are finding many ways to come together with the wider community in Charlbury. This event was part of action to engage with others on matters affecting our world and environment.

How we live now is what matters – now is the time for action: for compassion, care and love for others, through organisations such as YCare International and through our own individual daily lives. This was the central message for me from Terry Waite’s talk today in Charlbury. This was a rare opportunity to hear and learn from someone who has endured intense and prolonged deprivation of freedom and physical abuse as a hostage in Beirut. And who was able to find a mental path to cope with captivity through creativity. In Terry’s case, this creativity was through using his mind and language skills to “write in his head”, helped partly by his thoughts and dreams of happy times – “I sometimes woke up laughing” – and partly through internal blanking out of painful memories, such as the events in the hours leading to his capture. “I would write in my head” and recall words of psalms, but he was not drawn to extemporary prayer with God and supplication for release, which might have caused him to suffer even more. 

Terry Waite says he can now feel true empathy (rather than sympathy) with people in need, but modestly admits his (and others’) concern for others is also partly motivated by self-interest. Just before his capture, he was given the option to see a hostage who was said to be dying, and decided to do so (despite the danger) partly because of the remorse he would feel if he declined the opportunity. Unfortunately, he was unaware that Hezbollah had heard ‘fake news’ that Terry was an ‘agent of a foreign power’ rather than a humanitarian. Terry’s compassion and this misinformation combined to lead to him spending 1,763 days in captivity.

We heard also about Terry’s previous experience in conflict resolution in Uganda at a time that was punctuated by the military coup by Idi Amin. Many of his colleagues were among the tens of thousands who were subsequently murdered. And then to his work in Iran and Libya, as assistant to Archbishop of Canterbury, where he successfully secured the release of hostages.

Terry Waite illustrated his main points with a number of readings from his new book, Out of the Silence: Memories, Poems, Reflections, published a few months ago. The one that sticks in my mind is Footsteps in the corridor, which describes the fear and pain of being dragged from his cell for beating, not knowing what might happen next at any moment. Terry Waite endured mock execution during his time in captivity and continues to advocate against all forms of torture. “The support of the current US Administration for waterboarding is deeply wrong”.

 Dr Neil Pakenham-Walsh MB,BS, DCH, DRCOG
HIFA Coordinator
Co-director, Global Healthcare Information Network