The parents of American aid worker Peter Kassig, who was beheaded by Islamic State (Isis) militants, said on Monday their “hearts are battered” but, that with time, they would heal, and even forgive his killers.
Kassig, a former US army ranger, was abducted on 1 October 2013 while on his way to a town in eastern Syria to deliver aid. He was held captive by the Islamic State group, also known as Isis or Isil. The video of his beheading emerged on Sunday.
“A while ago, we were informed that our beloved son, Abdul-Rahman, no longer walks this earth,” said Kassig’s father, Ed, referring to his son by the name he was reported to have assumed after converting to Islam in captivity.
Kassig’s parents delivered a brief joint statement during a press conference at Epworth United Methodist Church in their hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana.
“Our hearts are battered, but they will mend,” Kassig’s mother, Paula, said, speaking stoically. “The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end.”
Paula quoted from a letter written by one of her son’s former teachers: “If a person can be both a realist and an idealist, then that’s Peter. Peter has earned the right to be both.”
His parents asked for privacy while they grieve. “Please allow our family the time and privacy to mourn, cry – and yes, forgive – and begin to heal,” Ed said.
The Kassigs learned their son had been kidnapped last year, but asked for a media blackout after his disappearance, at the apparent behest of his captors. They worked quietly with friends and family to campaign for his release. However, in October, their son appeared in a video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning. In the video, the militants vowed Kassig would be next, prompting his parents to go public with their efforts to secure his release.
On Sunday, Kassig’s parents released in full the heart-rending letter their son wrote to them from captivity.
“I wish this paper would go on forever and never run out and I could just keep talking to you,” he said. “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.”
The family has asked that contributions in honor of Kassig be made to the Syrian American Medical Society, which is working to meet the medical needs of Syrians displaced and injured by war. Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, more than three million Syrians have fled their country.