The following statement was released Sunday by Ed and Paula Kassig, parents of Abdul-Rahman Kassig, or Peter, who is being held hostage by the Islamic State.
“We want to send our heartfelt thanks to the many people around the world who have offered their prayers and support to our family at this difficult time, and especially to those who know our son and worked with him in Lebanon, Turkey or Syria. We are overwhelmed by the response from those who consider Abdul-Rahman a hero for the work he was doing before he was taken captive.
“We have also received many questions about our son’s conversion to Islam. We feel a need to more fully tell that story to the world.
“Like many people his age, our son had spent his late teens and early 20s searching for his place in the world. His sojourn included a brief time in the U.S. military, but upon returning home he felt called to be a peacemaker. He traveled to Lebanon in 2012 while on spring break from college, and later returned to work there as a medic and humanitarian worker. As he told us in a letter in 2012, ‘The truth is sometimes I really think I would like to do something else, but at the end of the day this work is really the only thing that I have found that gives my life both meaning and direction.’
“His friends say that Abdul-Rahman’s journey toward Islam began before he was taken captive. Along with his Muslim colleagues, he observed the month-long Ramadan fast in July-August 2013 prior to his capture, and spoke of the great impact this spiritual practice had on him. He had also worked and lived alongside Syrian Muslims before his capture and had come to admire and respect them greatly.
“In June, we received a letter from him during his time in captivity. In the letter, our son said he prays every day and that his situation is “dogmatically complicated” — which we understand was a reference to his conversion. A former hostage says our son voluntarily converted to Islam sometime between October and December 2013, when he shared a cell with a devout Syrian Muslim. After converting, he took Islam's practices seriously, including praying the five daily prayers and taking on the name Abdul-Rahman. We see this as part our son’s long spiritual journey.
“We have decided to release portions of his June 2014 letter, so the world can understand why we and so many people care for him and admire him. We ask the world to continue to pray for him and for all innocent people harmed by violence and war. We continue to pressure the government to stop its actions and continue to call on his captors to have mercy and release him.”
Below are portions of the letter written by Abdul-Rahman Kassig, which his parents received on June 2, 2014. The letter has been edited for length and to remove sensitive information, but all the words were written by Abdul-Rahman Kassig:
The first thing I want to say is thank you. Both to you and mom for everything you have both done for me as parents; for everything you have taught me, shown me, and experienced with me. I cannot imagine the strength and commitment it has taken to raise a son like me but your love and patience are things I am so deeply grateful for.
I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all. I am very sad that all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through. If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need.
In terms of my faith, I pray everyday and I am not angry about my situation in that sense. I am in a dogmatically complicated situation here, but I am at peace with my belief.
I wish this paper would go on forever and never run out and I could just keep talking to you. Just know I’m with you. Every stream, every lake, every field and river. In the woods and in the hills, in all the places you showed me. I love you.