The inhabitants of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario are tying ribbons to the trees, and hanging out flags and signs reading, “Prayers Answered” to welcome home freed Iraq hostage James Loney.
The 42 year old peace activist, was taken hostage Baghdad along with Norman Kember, fellow Canadian Harmeet Sooden, and American Tom Fox, whose bullet-ridden body was found earlier this month. He returned to Canada on Sunday having been freed by coalition forces in Iraq, where he was greeted by his partner, Dan Hunt.
He had not revealed his sexuality to his captors, and his partner had been encouraged not to make any appeal for his release. Doug Pritchard, the co-director of the Christian Peacemakers Teams says Loney’s family thought it best to keep quiet about his sexuality out of fear for his safety.
Though Mr Loney is expected to return to Salut Ste. Marie, he and his parents are keeping a low profile and have not said when they hope to come home.
The Salut Star published a full page colour photo for residents to put in their windows as a show of public support to “Jim, his parents Claudette and Patrick and other family members”.
“He’s one of our own. He was out on a mission of peace. He was out there doing good work,” city Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fratesi told the paper.
“People were really concerned that we might not see him again. This is his hometown. We’re very proud of the work he does. We’re very grateful that he was taken out of harm. We need to show that.”