Parents of beheaded journalist drawing on faith
c. 2014 Religion News Service
(RNS) They’ve done this before.
Once again, John and Diane Foley appeared on national television Wednesday (Aug. 20), to speak in clear and deliberate voices about their son, conflict journalist James Foley — only this time, it wasn’t to plead for his release from captors but to hail him as a hero who wanted to help people, and to thank the public for the outpouring of support that has flooded in since officials confirmed a videotaped beheading of their son was authentic.
Standing in front of the family home in Rochester, N.H., John Foley told reporters in the kind of voice of strength he and his wife have displayed over the years, “We’ve been through this before. Let ‘er rip.”
In years past, the Foleys have taken to television to draw attention to the cause of their son, who was abducted in November 2012 in Syria and also held captive for 44 days in 2011 after being captured in Libya.
Account after account describes the Foleys as determined, faithful Roman Catholics. After their son disappeared in 2012, they launched the FreeJamesFoley.org website to serve as a clearinghouse for information that might lead to his release. In October 2013, they joined Today’s Matt Lauer to wish their still-captive son a happy 40th birthday and to keep his cause alive. Even when interviewers noted that Foley’s career took him to many volatile places, his father was quick to defend him.
“He’s not reckless,” John Foley said. “He’s been doing this conflict reporting for almost eight years.”
The Foleys said Wednesday (Aug. 20) that their son was the oldest of their five children and that his attraction to reporting from war-torn areas came from having brothers who served in the military.
They appear to be a family held together by faith. In their appearance in front of their home Wednesday, John and Diane Foley made frequent references to God. Their local paper, Foster’s Daily Democrat, reported that their pastor, the Rev. Paul Gousse of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, visited the family after word spread of Foley’s death. Journalist Max Fisher of Vox described Foley as a person of quiet but strong faith.
Fisher said, “Jim’s faith was something we all agreed not to discuss publicly while he was held in Syria, but it was the wellspring of his generosity,” Fox reported.
Foley helped organize a memorial fund after photographer Anton Hammerl was killed in Libya in 2011, Fisher said.
Rochester, a small city of about 30,000, appeared to be quietly mourning. Members of the Foleys’ church said they were not giving interviews about Foley’s death or about the family. Members of local government said the Foleys were on everyone’s minds.
“Everybody has a great deal of compassion for the situation,” Rochester Deputy Mayor A. Raymond Varney said in a telephone interview with USA Today. “Even if you don’t know them, our hearts go out to them. We feel bad for the family. ”
Secretary of State John Kerry said he got to know the Foleys after their son was captured in Libya in 2011, back when Kerry was a U.S. senator representing Massachusetts.
“His family was as determined in working toward his release as James had been daring in covering those war zones himself,” Kerry said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Teresa and I, along with members of my family who got to know James’ mother Diane and his brother, are heartbroken for all of the Foleys. There are no words of condolence that can adequately convey our sorrow, our sympathy or our anger for what has happened.”