Terry Waite hopes his first meeting with Hezbollah since his kidnap will be seen as one of the small reconciliations that pave the path to peace.
Mr Waite, from Hartest, was kidnapped in Beirut in 1987 by a group linked to Hezbollah. He first returned to Lebanon in 2004 to meet young people helped by Y Care International but last week met Hezbollah’s most senior foreign affairs man.
“Some people would criticise me ‘cavorting’ with these people, but it is the only way forward,” he told the Bury Free Press on Monday. “No political group in Lebanon comes away with clean hands. At some point we have to put that behind us.
“Large scale reconciliation has to be made up of thousands of smaller reconciliations. You can’t have political agreement until people come to terms with that. I’m hoping my gesture was a gesture in the right direction.”
Mr Waite went to Lebanon to see the plight of Christian refugees from neighbouring Syria. He said 250,000 Syrian Christians have fled to Lebanon.
He met Lebanon’s Melcite (orthodox) archbishop who felt Hezbollah’s relationship with Christians there was good and the party was doing its best for the country.
The bishop arranged contacts with Hezbollah but it was not until 10.30pm on the day before Mr Waite was leaving that he was taken to a secret location to meet Ammar Moussawi.
Returning to the southern suburbs, where he was held, ‘brought back memories’ but Mr Waite said: “It’s customary for these meetings to take place at night. I’ve been to many, though the last but one resulted in my captivity. But there’s not much point being worried about these things.
“He [Moussawi] was a little apprehensive at first because he didn’t know what I was going to say. I told him that although I had suffered, my suffering was nothing compared to the people of Lebanon”
Mr Waite said Mr Moussawi, whose party has agreements with Christian parties in Lebanon, asked for his proposals on how to help the refugees who face freezing winter weather in poor accommodation.