Terry Waite - Out of the Silence

From Saturday Morning, 10:05 am on 18 March 2017
Terry Waite

Terry Waite Photo: Supplied

‘Terry Waite’ was a name both revered and controversial when back in 1980 – as the Archbishop of Canterbury's Special Envoy to the Middle East – he helped negotiate the release of hostages in Lebanon.

Then Waite was himself held hostage by Hezbollah militants for nearly five years.

Since his release in 1991, Waite has been committed to humanitarian work, lecturing and writing.

In recent years, he’s spent considerable time in Hawke’s Bay, where he wrote his latest book Out of the Silence: Memories, Poems, Reflections.

Hawke's Bay is a peaceful spot, says Waite.

“And it gets me away from an intensively busy programme.”

He says his own suffering has given him more empathy.

“It's one thing to have sympathy and say 'I'm sorry for the condition in which you find yourself' and one can be genuinely sorry. It's quite another to have empathy and say 'Yes, I can feel what it's like, I know what it's like to be so isolated, I know what it's like to be so lonely, I know what it's like to have absolutely nothing. And not just to say that, but then to say 'Okay, I'll at least try and do whatever I can – however small it might be – to alleviate that for other people.

“Ultimately, suffering – in the majority of cases – needn't destroy. Something creative can emerge from it.”

While imprisoned, Waite watched his body deteriorated and wondered if his mind was going the same way. As a mental exercise, he developed the ability to write in his head, and began working on what would became his autobiography Taken on Trust.

He says his Anglican faith remained intact while in captivity, although he didn't "feel the close presence of god” over that time.

“Feelings can be distorted in all sorts of ways – illness can distort feeling, situations and so on. If you make faith dependent on feeling you can so easily be led astray.”

Waite says he’s incredulous at President Trump's proposal to reintroduce torture tactics, such as waterboarding:

“Good heavens, torture? It just doesn't pay off. Having been a victim of torture myself, I just think it's horrible, it's awful that a so-called leader of a civilised nation could propose that. It's non-productive, it doesn't achieve anything. And it just increases resistance. It also means, of course, that when people from the United States or other nations happen to fall into the hands of such people, they better watch out.”