Cover Story

Baroness for battle

Whether speaking before Parliament or sneaking supplies across militarized borders, Baroness Caroline Cox, WORLD's Daniel of the Year, has defended the persecuted poor. "When God gives you a vacuum, you fill it"

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2004," Dec. 11, 2004

Most English grandmothers wouldn't know an MRE if they met one. Caroline Cox has military rations down to a science. The vacuum-packed portions from the United States are cheaper than ration packs supplied by the British Army, she admits, and preferable, anyway, because each one contains a miniature bottle of Tabasco sauce.

Spice is not what you first expect from a demure 67-year-old parliamentarian with 10 grandchildren. Mrs. Cox is a titled woman, after all: deputy speaker of the British House of Lords and a baroness. She has a flat in northwest London and a getaway in a 14th-century manor home in Dorset. She serves on boards of this and that, including vice president of the Royal College of Nursing, and has honorary academic degrees from universities on three continents. But neither resumé nor pedigree nor the wine-colored pantsuit and the black velvet headband tell the full story: Caroline Cox is more Amelia Earhart than Miss Marple and arguably has guts enough to supply a platoon of Marines.

Her first helicopter flight into the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory was shot down over Azerbaijan. It was "a sacramental moment," she recalls, as crew, passenger, and supplies made a soft landing in snow-but that did not stop her from making 58 more trips to the war zone, most recently six weeks ago.

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Danger is a steady diet for the president of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, who regularly forsakes the gilt halls of Westminster Abbey in pursuit of persecuted Christians and other wretches. Reaching them requires-literally-crossing militarized borders, hiking forbidden mountains, and fording bridgeless rivers.

In 2004 Mrs. Cox traveled also to war-torn Nigeria three times, to Indonesia, Burma, and North Korea. Between those journeys, she spoke at churches, missions conferences, human-rights forums, and other events in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Between speaking tours she promoted a new book about Islam and the West (slated for U.S. publication next month), joined a new British panel monitoring religious freedom, advised on Muslim-Christian reconciliation in Indonesia, and founded a new humanitarian aid organization.

The list of accomplishments, the feats of daring-and the endless reservoir of energy they imply-are not the only reasons WORLD selects Mrs. Cox as its seventh Daniel of the Year. Others in this season of war have risked (and lost) their lives on battlefields. Others in this election year have staked their careers and their fortunes on bold rhetoric. Mrs. Cox, in five decades of public service from the tenement wards of central London to the peerage seats of Parliament, has with courage and boldness confronted fiery furnaces stoked for Western civilization, chiefly Marxism and now militant Islam. She has risked her reputation in their defeat, not only with rhetoric in royal courts but with literal bandages on the battlefield.

Caroline Cox likes to tell audiences that she is "a nurse by intention but a baroness by astonishment." She was born in 1937 to a prominent surgeon and a schoolteacher in London and studied to be a nurse. Working the night shift in a London hospital, she met internist Murray Cox. They courted in a nearby rhubarb patch, read poetry to one another, married, and had three children.

A stint with tuberculosis forced her into six months' convalescence; she spent the time studying for advanced degrees in economics and sociology and moved into teaching, eventually heading London University's nursing program. The academic world provided her first up-close encounter with Marxism as it flourished among the intelligentsia. In one department where she taught, 16 of 20 faculty members were communists.

For nine years, she says, she challenged the Marxist education philosophy-"hardline indoctrination with academic intimidation." The scholastic warfare led to co-authoring a book, The Rape of Reason. Published in 1975, it helped to inspire a Tory resurgence, catching the attention of Fleet Street columnists and Whitehall mavericks, including Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who in 1982 recommended Mrs. Cox to Queen Elizabeth for a lifetime seat with title in the House of Lords.

Parliamentary status, Mrs. Cox says, is evidence of God's sense of humor. "I don't really like politics," she confesses, "and I am pathologically shy." In college she was president of the debating society but claims she never said a word.

In government she found her voice by speaking for the voiceless. Having accurately characterized the problems with Marxism, she set about to help its victims behind the Iron Curtain. She signed on as a patron for the Medical Aid for Poland Fund. The work took her across Europe for weeks at a time, eating and sleeping out of delivery trucks as the relief group brought medicine and other supplies to the dispossessed in Poland, Romania, and Russia.

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