On June 18th the 600th anniversary of the Durham Cathedral Choir School was celebrated with Terry Waite leading the tributes. It is right and fitting that an institution that opened its doors in 1416 should be honoured, and doubly so by one of Britain’s unsung heroic humanitarians. The Cathedral Choir School, established to bring learning and enlightenment to the people, has produced many luminaries over time, not least among them in contemporary times the Right Honourable Tony Blaire former Prime Minister, and Judge Sir John Laws.
Terry Waite is an interesting man in his own right. Once the right hand man of the then Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. Terry Waite became the Archbishops Special Envoy and was travelling into the trouble spots that most people were fleeing from, and approaching some of the World’s most intractable and violent regimes to obtain humanitarian help for captives, and for the innocents caught up in between warring factions who knew no humanitarianism and acted quite often in a barbarous way. Whilst in war torn Lebanon in early 1987 negotiating the release of prisoners Terry Waite was taken prisoner by those he was negotiating with, he was held captive for 1763 days, much of that time in solitary confinement. Mr Waite is a Quaker, a member of a movement that is anti-war and very much about peace and reconciliation. During his captivity this gentle man never once lost his own faith in God or in humanity. Perhaps we can all gain something that will make us more human from this truly human being who after almost 5 years in isolation and fear for his own life has apparently never held a grudge and remains a humble and dedicated man, and a true beacon of peace and reconciliation.
Considering the turbulence that surrounds us, perhaps we can all gain from emulating this very human being, not least our leaders and politicians many of whom would do well to follow this most honourable Englishman’s example.