Terry Waite to lecture at CSUB

October 11, 2007
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, kmiller26@csub.edu or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720, mnewell1@csub.edu

The hostage negotiator who himself became a hostage will deliver the fall lecture for the Kegley Institute of Ethics at California State University, Bakersfield.

Terry Waite, the British diplomat and humanitarian, will discuss "Resolving Conflict: The Test of Humanity," on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Doré Theater on the CSUB campus. The lecture is free and the public is invited.

Christopher Meyers, CSUB philosophy professor and director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics, said Waite's talk is especially timely in light of the continued conflict in the Middle East. "Terry Waite has a unique perspective because he was taken captive by the very people with whom he was negotiating," Meyers said. "To be able to bring his perspective to Bakersfield at a time when so many Americans are concerned about the withering war in Iraq is truly fortunate. His perspective will help us all gain a better understanding of this conflict and that region."

Long devoted to humanitarian causes, intercultural relations and conflict resolution, Waite garnered international recognition in the 1980s when, as a special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya.

In 1987, while negotiating the release of hostages in Beirut, Waite was himself taken hostage. In captivity for 1,763 days (four years of which were in solitary confinement), he was chained to a wall, often left in darkness, beaten and subjected to mock executions.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Waite is often called upon by various news media to share his views on Islamic fundamentalism, the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the best way to negotiate with hostage-takers in Iraq. In January 2004, he made headlines when he returned to Lebanon for the first time since his 1991 release to visit refugee camps and research the effects of war on the young.

"What I have tried to do is take the positive side of the experience of being a hostage and build on it," he says. "It has given me increased empathy with those who are victims of warfare or oppression."

"Taken On Trust" is Waite's bestselling account of his horrific ordeal.

Remarkably, Waite returned home from Beirut harboring no hostility or resentment toward his captors, no regret or self-pity about his experiences. His insights were in sharp focus during a recent interview with CNN. During the interview, he said:

"When you look at terrorists' movements across the world, one has to admit that they do attract to themselves psychopathic characters – that is, individuals who have little or no conscience or feeling, and will kill without mercy. I doubt whether it is possible to negotiate with those characters. But fortunately, they're in the minority. Looking at other members of terrorist organizations, again, one has to take seriously their perceptions of the situation in the Middle East, and rightly or wrongly, they do not perceive America to be an honest broker. They perceive America to be excessively partial in favor of Israel. Let me underline that I am again speaking about perceptions that have to be taken seriously. So, if we are going to deal with the problem of terrorism, we have to begin to deal with some of the international situation, such as the Middle East, on a basis of justice and fair dealing.

"It is very easy … for me to appear to be overly simplistic, and I thoroughly recognize the complexity of the Middle East situation. But the basic issue regarding many people from the Arab nations is lack of trust in the United States as an honest broker. We have to work hard, very hard, at building relationships of trust, but only with those who have political authority and power. That is a long term and difficult job. It's only as you build relationships of trust, build understanding, that you can effectively deal with problems of terrorism. Because local communities then will recognize that it is not in their interest for one moment to give even minimal support to terrorist activity, emanating from their communities."

Waite now devotes most of his time to humanitarian efforts around the world, inspiring people to create better lives for the less fortunate. He is the founder and president of Y Care International, which provides relief to vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. He also is the U.K. president of Emmaus International (serving the homeless), a trustee of the Freeplay Foundation and a patron of the Children's One to One Foundation. His efforts have included helping street children in Columbia and India gain access to education, bringing clean water to remote areas of Africa and offering trauma counseling to war-ravaged children in Kosovo and the Middle East.

Waite gives audiences a perspective of world affairs founded on open communication, cooperation and a deep understanding of diverse cultures. Waite has achieved a unique role on the world stage: part pragmatist, part visionary and fully dedicated to the pursuit of social justice.

He was born in the county of Cheshire, England May 31, 1939. He was educated locally and received his higher education in London. On leaving college he was appointed as education advisor to the Anglican bishop of Bristol, England, and remained in that post until he moved to East Africa in 1969. In Uganda he worked as provincial training adviser to the first African Anglican archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and in that capacity traveled extensively throughout East Africa. Together with his wife, Frances, and their four children he witnessed the Amin coup in Uganda, and both he and his wife narrowly escaped death on several occasions. From his office in Kampala he founded the Southern Sudan Project and was responsible for developing programs of aid and development for that war-torn region.

In 1972 Waite became a consultant to a Roman Catholic Medical Order and moved with his family to live in Rome. In this role, he traveled extensively throughout Asia, Africa, North and South America and Europe both conducting and advising on a variety of programs and issues connected with both health and education.

In 1980 he joined the staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury and moved to London where he again traveled extensively throughout the world and had a responsibility for the Archbishop's diplomatic and ecclesiastical exchanges. In the early 1980s, Waite successfully negotiated the release of several hostages from Iran, attracting worldwide attention. In 1983 he negotiated with Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi for the release of British hostages held in Libya and again was successful. In January 1987 while negotiating for the release of Western hostages in Lebanon, Waite himself was taken captive and remained in captivity for 1,763 days, the first four years of which were spent in total solitary confinement.

For more information, please call (661) 654-2555, or visit www.csub.edu/kie.