On Friday, the Islamic State released a short video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, whose life was threatened after the execution of another captive, David Haines. After Henning was killed, ISIS continued its grim pattern by announcing that 26-year-old American aid worker Peter Kassig would be next. And on Saturday, in another depressingly familiar part of the routine of trying to reason with the terrorists, Kassig’s parents made a public plea for their son’s life.
In the three-minute video, Ed and Paula Kassig address ISIS directly, highlighting his humanitarian work and his conversion to Islam, which took place while he was in captivity. (A family spokesman said Kassig’s name has been changed to Abdul Rahman.) Kassig, who spent a couple of years in the Army, is the founder of Special Emergency Response and Assistance, a small group that provided food, medical supplies, and other help to Syrian refugees. He was abducted near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor in October of last year.
“The driving force in our family has always been to serve others,” says Ed, a schoolteacher. “Our family deplores all human suffering and the loss of innocent life, no matter who is responsible. We respond by trying to provide aid and assistance. Our son was living his life according to that same humanitarian call when he was taken captive.”
“We know the Syrians are suffering,” he continues. “We also believe violence is not the solution to the problems that trouble us all. There is so much that is beyond our control. We’ve asked our government to change its actions, but, like our son, we have no more control over the U.S. government than you have over the breaking of dawn. We implore his captors to show mercy and use their power to let our son go.”
In a message to Peter himself, his mother says, “We are so very proud of you and the work you have done … Please know that we are all praying for you and your safe return. Most of all, know that we love you, and our hearts ache for you to be granted your freedom so we can hug you again and then set you free to continue the life you have chosen, the life in service to those in greatest need.”
“As Muslims around the world, including our son Abdul-Rahman Kassig, celebrate Eid ul-Adha, the faith and sacrifice of Ibrahim, and the mercy of Allah, we appeal to those holding our son to show the same mercy and set him free,” the family added in a written statement.
In an interview before he was abducted, Kassig talked about how his time in Syria had altered his perspective.“There is this mentality from where I come from back home that I have a little bit of a problem with. I don’t want to get on a political soap box, but at the same time we have to think about why as a country we choose to help certain people and not others,” he explained. “We have to think about why we just chalk up the Middle East [as] this complex enigma that we will never understand because they are so different from us. But at the end of the day, they are really not. It’s just about whether or not you’re willing to go out on a limb and understand something.”