The pastor of a British Baptist being held hostage in Iraq welcomed news that he is still alive and urged prayer for his release.

Norman Kember, 74, along with three other peace activists, has been held hostage by a group calling itself the Swords of Truth Brigade since Nov. 26. Kember is a longtime member of College Road Baptist Church in Harrow, which has held prayer vigils for his release and support for his wife and family.

“Harrow Baptist Church stands alongside Pat offering her whatever support we can in this trying and difficult time for her and the family,” Minister Bob Gardiner said in a statement.

Gardiner said the church welcomed the news that Kember is still alive and continues to pray not only for him but also for fellow Christian Peacemaking Team members James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Tom Fox, as well as “other hostages held unjustly in Iraq.”

“We thank all those across the country and the world that are holding prayer vigils for Norman Kember and his fellow captives, and for the tremendous support from the Muslim community,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Christian radio station that interviewed Kember before his trip to Iraq invited a Muslim representative who has been campaigning for his release to discuss the new videotape showing the four hostages alive.

With small, obscure groups like the Swords of Truth Brigade, after a while it becomes difficult for them to hold on to westerners both for financial and security reasons, so they tend to sell them off or move them on to larger and possibly more ruthless groups, said Anas Al-Tikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain. Al-Trikriti said he was afraid that had happened, especially after six weeks of silence.

“Now it’s been proved the captives are still in the same hands, our efforts over the past two months have not gone to waste,” he said. “The fact they have released the tape after such a long silence suggests they are willing to communicate.”

He went on to say that the fact the captors did not set a new deadline for their demands to be met was a positive sign. “It’s obviously very difficult when you haven’t established a line of two way contact with the abductors. We’re not really talking to them directly apart from our efforts to communicate with them through the media.”

The Swords of Righteousness are demanding that U.S. authorities release all their Iraqi prisoners, but many view the release of thousands of prisoners is unrealistic.

The U.S. recently released 424 prisoners, however, including five women, partially meeting demands of militants who abducted an American hostage, journalist Jill Carroll, who was in Iraq as a free-lance journalist for the Christian Science Monitor. The military said the move was already planned and that the U.S. would not give in to demands of kidnappers.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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British Baptists Pray for Hostages in Iraq

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