Friday, November 5, 2010

“A Child’s Soul is Sacred”: Omar Khadr’s Touching Exchange of Letters with Canadian Professor

Because of an exchange of moving, personal letters between a UK professor and Omar Khadr, a group of SEVEN HUNDRED students gathered to actively push for fair treatment for Khadr.

There's so much in this one dear person's life that touches on all humanity might have done - might still do to encourage the lives of our youth - whatever the culture. So why are we discouraging honesty, learning the highest and best? Why are we various nations and even religions of all sorts allowing for torture, assassinations, drones, executions, stoning, injustices, poverty?

Why not use this one small exchange and the article as a mirror and window and allow light to shower truth, justice, mercy, appropriate treatment of a youth who was caught in war as a child? Why not more love instead?


...The fact that Nelson Mandela’s book left a deep impression on Khadr can be seen from his reference to Mandela in a statement he delivered to the court on Thursday, when he said, “During my time here, as Nelson Mandela says, in prison, the most thing you have is time to think about things. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. I came to a conclusion that hate, first thing is, you’re not going to gain anything with hate. Second thing, it’s more destructive than it’s constructive. Third thing: I came to a conclusion that love and forgiveness are more constructive and will bring people together and will give them understanding and will solve a lot of problems.”

The Journal also noted that, in a letter in April this year, Khadr wrote a page on his thoughts about the book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah, which must have affected him profoundly, as Beah was forced to fight in Sierra Leone as a boy soldier at the age of 13, and, as the Journal described it, “committed terrible violence but survived and was rehabilitated.”

Without dwelling on how neither the US nor Canadian governments had fulfilled their obligation to rehabilitate him, under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which obliges signatories to “[r]ecogniz[e] the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities,” and to ensure “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict,” Khadr wrote:

"After I’ve finished reading A Long Way Gone, I was struck by the simplicity, truthfulness and the straight-from-the-heart fact of it. A Long Way Gone is the best example to what humans have reached from horrors they committed to the way they cured it and especially in the child field, a treatment that guaranteed success and cureness, a way that leaves no traces of the horrors that have scarred the soul."

In the most powerful passage, which ought to cause undying shame to those in the United States who have persisted with prosecution of Khadr, or, like the Canadian government, have washed their hands of him, he wrote:

"Children’s hearts are like a sponge that will absorb what is around it, like wet cement, soft until it is sculptured in a certain way. A child’s soul is a sacred dough that must be shaped in a holy way."

Describing the relationship between Khadr and Zinck, the Journal explained that Zinck “took on the role of professor, urging Khadr to do a lot of reading and writing so he can one day apply to university as a mature student. She also wrote from her faith, urging him to react to his difficult surroundings with love and strength and remember that ‘God keeps you close.’”

In a telephone interview from Guantánamo on Friday, Zinck said that she “began writing to Khadr in November 2008 because her Christian faith asks people to comfort those in need, including prisoners,” and explained that her inspiration came from the Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 25, verse 35, in which “Christ commands His disciples to comfort the sick, feed the hungry and thirsty and provide support for prisoners,” adding that, “Out of that grew the idea to encourage Omar to get an education.”

Describing how it became clear that Khadr is a “voracious reader,” Zinck also explained that the young man she came to know through the letters was a “polite, thoughtful, intelligent person.”

As a result of the exchange of letters, a group of students at King’s University College organized a public meeting to discuss Khadr’s case, at which 700 people turned up, who “actively pushed” for him to receive a fair trial.

Moreover, on Friday, Khadr told his sentencing hearing at Guantánamo that he would like to attend King’s University College, and Zinck told the hearing she would “write a letter of recommendation for Khadr if he applied to attend the college.”

The following are a few more excerpts from the letters between Zinck and Khadr.

October 23, 2008, Khadr to Zinck:

I got your letter and picture, was very surprised by them. So thank you very much for them, I’m in your debt and what you showed is more than I expected and that you are a true friend and as they say: The true friend is not in the time of ease but in the time of hardship.

January 22, 2009, Khadr to Zinck:

I have received your response so thank you very much … Your letters are like candles, very bright in my hardship and darkness. About myself, what can I say? We hold on to hope in our hearts and the love from others to us and that keeps us going until we reach our happiness.

May 23, 2010, Khadr to Zinck:

Thank you for your letter and thanks for the compliment, I don’t think I deserve it. Before I end, I say again your letters are one of the most important things for me down here. I treasure them and reread them, they mean a lot...


There are so many others in prison and this is a wake-up call to me to get to writing a few others who need the light and encouragement of friends and to be more kind to the many children in my neighborhood...

“A Child’s Soul is Sacred”: Omar Khadr’s Touching Exchange of Letters with Canadian Professor here

Besides following and looking up really thorough analysis at Andy Worthington's site, you may also want to peruse and

Go to nomorecrusades for related items.

And JUST In What's Wrong with Prosecuting a Child Soldier? here and Omar Khadr's Sentencing, A Stain on us All here


Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

excellent! lovely :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article. Khadr has been a victim of hate and ignorance since the day he was born, and continues to be.

I hope it may be possible for him to be released some day, and to use his experiences in some positive way, perhaps to influence other young people who may be drawn toward groups like Al Qaeda, or some other worthwhile cause. (Diane)

Connie L. Nash said...

Thanx, Mr. Dar, for your encouragement, always, in matters of the true heart and about healing our human race.

Diane, thanx for your concise observations with which I concur. I too pray he will one day be released and positively affect many - maybe in part because the Canadian professor and her students took the time to care and to know that we are accountable and offered the whole of our precious lives with which to gift humanity our best. Our being is not to be dismissed by the part where we may have failed...