Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ingrid Betancourt on Woman's Hour

Ingrid Betancourt was held hostage in the Colombian jungle for a period of six years. She was captured by the FARC guerrillas whilst campaigning as a candidate in a presidential election. I posted in July 2008 (links from this post to the Lourdes blog no longer work - but the video of Ingrid Betancourt's visit to the grotto can be seen here on the main Lourdes website - look out for the exchange of looks between Ingrid and her mother to which I refer in my July 2008 post) about the visit that Ingrid Betancourt made to Lourdes, with her mother and other family members, following her release. Ingrid has now written a book about her experience of captivity, which has just been published. Her interview on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour this week is in connection with the promotion of the book.

You can find the interview at this link. I think that this is a permanent link, so am expecting that it will remain available.

There are two particularly interesting sections in the interview. The first is where Ingrid talks about what she felt made her captors brutal towards her and her fellow hostages. She identified three factors which she felt, in combination, made their brutality possible, and suggested that these factors could apply in any organisation. They were in very exceptional situation which brought out the worst in human beings, making her captors cruel, sadistic and humiliating. In a manner reminiscent of Catholic teaching on original sin, Ingrid observes that there is something like this in all of us. The factors Ingrid identified are: the power her captors had over their captives (represented by their possession of weapons and strength); a hierarchy which allowed them to have a lack of responsibility for their own actions (manifested in the explanation that they were just obeying orders from others); and a lack of witnesses due to the isolation of the jungle (so that their captors could do what they wished without any accountability to others).

One can think of any number of situations in our own country where the explanation that "we are following Government policy" or "this is what the guidance says" is used to avoid taking a personal responsibility for a course of action.

The second very interesting section is where Ingrid answers the question about how she was able to cope with the hardship of her prolonged captivity.  She talks about love. Firstly, she cherished the moments of love she had spent with her parents and her children in the past, and these moments gave her a desire to get back to that life. Love because she had the sensation that God was there, that the situation was not the chaos it appeared, that her situation was something that she must go through for it to have a meaning. And finally she speaks of the love of her fellow captives, who she describes as being her "heroes".

UPDATE: There is an an article based on an interview with Ingrid Betancourt in the Guardian, which gives some wider background to her experiences as a hostage.

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