Limitless Power of Innocence: Tery Waite and Ahmet Altan

YUSUF MURAT GENCAY

We all have a mission to fulfil in life to justify our given life. The question is how and when we will solve the puzzle and discover that mystery. I had the privilege to meet with Mr.Terry Waite in early 2019 and witnessed someone who solved his mystery. In his case, the mystery manifested itself through despicable suffering and injustice. He spent 5 years of his life in solitary confinement in a dark room, blindfolded, chained from his legs and arms for 23 hours on each day. Even though he had been warned against not going to Lebanon due to the risks involved, he determinately went, just because he had promised to do so, not to miss the chance of visiting and helping other hostages. As soon as he was released he established Hostage UK and later Hostage International to help hostages and their families. His resolute commitment to helping others urged me to question my mission and justification of my life.

In his speech, he resembled “anger” to “fire” that needs to be put off immediately, which he managed to do so in his first week of captivity. He broke the cycle of hatred and animosity against those people who were keeping him under inhumane conditions. “Forgiving others starts with forgiving yourself first; if you forgive, you open your way, you move forward.” he stated. Having said that, he underlined it does not mean he agreed what was done to him, but he tried to empathise with them to understand how they could become so cruel to a human being.

Do we know how many people in our local parish live in solitude as most of us are preoccupied and overwhelmed with our individual lives which in turn fortifies the barriers among members of the society gradually in the long run? Or have we ever thought about other people living in other countries being oppressed by autocratic regimes and thousands of innocent people being kept in solitary confinements in agony, away from the loved ones? Do we still have the notion of “Internation Society” which values the norms that have been formed over the centruies through the struggle of mankind such as basic human rights and freedoms, supremacy of law and prohibition of any kind of torture to any living creature? If we still keep that vision of “International Society” don`t we have the moral responsibility to do somethig to rectify the injustices or at least speak up against those injustices with loud voice? Or have we collectively become shortsighted and unfortunate masses who remeber justice only when the injuice hits us?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Before I went for Mr.Waite`s speech I had listened to his speeches online and ordered one of his books, Taken on Trust, to get it signed. One of his most striking messages was `You can keep my body imprisoned, you can try to control my mind by torturing but you can not control my soul. It will always be free.` This message was so similar to what I had recently read in a book authored by Ahmet Altan, who has been in a Turkish jail for the last 3 years along with other thousands of innocent people post 15 July 2016 without any substantial evidence of wrongdoing. Mr.Altan similarly talks about the reality of a body made of flesh, bone, blood, muscle, and nerve that was trapped on one hand, and an untouchable mind on the other. While listening to Mr.Waite, I felt obliged to seize the opportunity to establish a communication channel between him and Mr.Altan, who are living in parallel universes without knowing each other albeit giving similar messages with the limitless power derived from their innocence.

Mr.Waite had to write his memories in captivity in his mind to turn them into a book upon his release, while Mr Altan was lucky enough to sneak out some notes out of jail to be published in the UK as a book1. Mr.Altan`s book `I Will Never See The World Again` was nominated for Baillie Gifford prize and is among 12 prominent books now2. When I gave that book to Mr.Waite and briefly explained what the book was all about, his first response was `I have to write a letter to him`. There is always something we can do for others in most dire conditions.

1 The Guardian published a a book review on 13 March 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/13/i-will-never-see-world-again-ahmet-altan-review.

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