Terry Waite: I am not bitter because I've put the past behind me

From a speech at the Royal Geographical Society by the former hostage and current president of Y Care
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I have often been asked if I would return to the country where I spent almost five years in captivity. Some months ago, the Director of Y Care International, the overseas development agency of the YMCA movement, asked me if I would consider visiting, as its president, some of our projects in Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Y Care was launching a report on the impact of armed conflict on young people and children.

Many people asked if I was apprehensive, or harboured bitterness. I did not. Hundreds of Lebanese were kidnapped and thousands more died in conflict. If the people of Lebanon can put the past behind them, so can I.

There are over two thousand young people in two camps I visited. Although those I met did not engage in violence, it seemed hardly surprising that young people in similar situations might seek identity and security in radical religious movements.

I was upset by my visit to the Territories. Upset for the oppressed Palestinians. Upset for the very many Jewish people who want peace and security. Upset for the young people who struggle against the most appalling odds. When I look at Israel and the Occupied Territories, I see a colossal political failure. Both sides of the dispute have failed each other and have been failed by the international community.

Men and women in Israel and the Arab nations must now speak out for peace and reconciliation. In our work with the young, we will make every effort to give peace a chance.

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