Unidentified Male #1: I believe in mystery.
Unidentified Female #1: I believe in family.
Unidentified Male #2: I believe in being who I am.
Unidentified Male #3: I believe in the power of failure.
Unidentified Male #4: And I believe normal life is extraordinary.
Unidentified Male #5: This I believe.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Our feature This I Believe has spawned a sister series from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. And our essay today comes to us by way of the CBC. It's from James Loney of Toronto.
In 2005, he was working as a Christian peace activist in Iraq when he was captured by militants. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: For almost four months, James Loney was held hostage in a small room in a residential neighborhood in Baghdad. He was confined with three other humanitarian workers, one of whom was killed. Loney and the other two prisoners were rescued by a special team of coalition forces. Such an experience might shake a person's fundamental beliefs. For James Loney, it reinforced them.
Here he is with his essay for This I Believe.
Mr. JAMES LONEY (Christian Peace Activist): I believe all things and all beings are interconnected. I saw this most clearly in the time I was a hostage. For 118 days, our world was reduced to what could be heard and said and done while handcuffed and chained with three other men in a cold, paint-peeling, eternally gloomy 10-by-12-foot room. But despite being vanished off the face of the Earth, there were times the walls around us would dissolve and I could see with perfect blue-sky clarity that everything I needed to know about the world was immediately available to me.
One day, our captors treated us to some Pepsi. We were very excited, more about the bottle than about the Pepsi because it meant we could now relieve ourselves in urgent circumstances. As you might expect, it's not easy to relieve yourself in urgent circumstances when your right and left hand are handcuffed to someone else's right and left hand. Sometimes, despite our most careful efforts, we ended up with an unfortunate mess.
On a later day, after bringing us a particularly greasy lunch - fried eggplant rolled up in a tiny bit of flatbread - the captor we called Uncle needed to clean his greasy fingers. He saw a rag hanging on the back of a chair and used it to wipe his hands. He did not know that it was our unfortunate mess rag, and that it had been used earlier that morning. In that moment, I saw how everything we do, even the things that seem most insignificant — cleaning up a mess or wiping our hands — affects everything and everyone else. Uncle thought he was simply rubbing some grease off his fingers, but in reality he was soiling himself in the squalor and degradation of our captivity, without him knowing it, or us intending it.
Uncle was one of our guards. With keys in one hand and gun in the other, his power over us seemed absolute but he was not free. He said so himself on one of those interminable days when we asked him if he had any news about when we would be released. He pointed glumly to his wrist as if he himself were handcuffed and said, when you are free, I will be free.
I believe there are many ways we can hold one another captive. It might be with a gun, an army, a holy book, a law, an invisible free mark at hand. It doesn't matter how we do it, who we do it to, or why. There's no escaping it. We ourselves become captives whenever we hold another in captivity. Whenever we soil someone else with violence, whether through a war, poverty, racism or neglect, we invariably soil ourselves. It is only when we turn away from dominating others that we begin to discover what the Christian scriptures call, the glorious freedom of a children of God.
ALLISON: James Loney with his essay for This I Believe. Loney remains involved with a Christian peace movement in Canada.
If you are interested in contributing to our series, visit our Web site, npr.org/thisibelieve where you can find out more and see the more than 30,000 essays that have been sent it.
For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
SIEGEL: Next Sunday on WEEKEND EDITION, a This I Believe essay from a Native American poet, Joy Harjo.