Family of slain journalist James Foley calls for more action to save others
ROCHESTER — After speaking to President Barack Obama by phone around noon Wednesday, John and Diane Foley stood outside their home on Victoria Circle to talk about their son.
Like the rest of the world, Diane said they learned of James Foley’s beheading after Islamic militants released a video online Tuesday.
“We knew it was Jim,” his mother said. “We didn’t watch the video.”
“We believe he was a martyr — a martyr for freedom,” John Foley said of his son, a freelance journalist kidnapped in Syria in November 2012.
“He was as much a humanitarian as a journalist,” he said.
The Foleys said James, who had been held hostage in 2011 while working in Libya, was drawn in part to “conflict journalism” because two of his brothers and a sister serve in the military. He traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other areas to find stories from war-torn nations.
“He just had deep courage — courage we’re trying to summon,” Diane Foley said.
“He was driven by the people’s deep desire to be free,” she said, adding her son was especially moved by the suffering of children.
Diane Foley said the President explained what the United States had attempted to do to save her son. (See related story.)“We didn’t even know. For two years, we’ve been wondering what has been done,” she said.
John Foley said he and his wife pleaded with the President to have the government do more to help the other captives, a number of whom are American journalists.
The Foleys said they regret not speaking publicly about their son’s situation while he was being held captive.
“We were afraid to use the media as an ally,” Diane Foley said, adding his captors were threatening her son’s life.
On hearing how he was killed, James Foley’s 7-year-old niece, Rori, said “her heart was broken,” according to Diane Foley.
“It’s difficult to find solace at these times, but we know he’s free,” Diane Foley said, adding they know their son is in heaven.
Both John and Michael Foley, younger brothers to James, recalled how he hoped to return home.
“His last hope was to be with his family again,” Michael said, referring to his brother’s final words in the recent video.
John Foley said he hopes the work of his son serves as an example to others, especially those facing a similar situation.
“I think he did as much as one person can do,” John Foley said.
The Foleys urged the nation and world to do more for the other hostages held by Muslim extremists in Syria and Iraq.
“This particular group has cut a path through Iraq,” John Foley said, adding his son was caught up in this “path of suffering.”
“There’s so much evil in the world — it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
The Foleys asked for people to pray to provide wisdom to our leaders and for mercy for the captives.
Diane Foley said the country needs to “find a way to protect courageous Americans,” especially the unarmed humanitarians who work to help others.
“Let’s come together as a country,” she said, adding her son “believed in this country. Jim was a great American.”
Despite the long ordeal, Diane Foley said any time the family “got despondent” in the past two years, “we thought of Jim.”
It was especially heartening when they heard that their son was helping other prisoners cope with captivity.
“We just ask Jim be remembered as a compassionate American who wanted to change the world,” Diane Foley said.
“We just thank God for the gift of Jim,” she added, saying the family was “truly humbled” to have him as a son.
“We’re so proud of him,” she said.
“We also appreciate the tremendous amount of prayers,” James Foley said, adding the family believed the prayers helped sustain Foley during his time oversees and in captivity.
The Rev. Paul Gousse, the pastor at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, met with the Foleys Tuesday night, and held a Mass for the family Wednesday morning.
Gousse and the Foley family released a statement Wednesday saying there will be a “holy Mass of healing, hope, and for peace” this Sunday at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester.
A memorial Mass is planned for James Foley on Oct. 18.