Cover Story

Baroness for battle

"Baroness for battle" Continued...

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

Such incidents have convinced Mrs. Cox that she never wants to show up in a war zone empty-handed. Documenting atrocities and speaking out against them for her go hand-in-glove with tangible aid. That burden led her this year to help launch the new U.K.-based Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, or HART.

Success is sweet but no mission is without controversy. During her most recent trip to Nagorno-Karabakh, Azeri state television fumed about "the separatist baroness," and the foreign ministry sent a note of protest via its embassy in London.

And her own government is not necessarily pleased with her causes. "None of the British governments-Conservative or Labor-have supported our work in Nagorno-Karabakh," she says, due to British Petroleum (BP) oil interests in Azerbaijan. One cabinet minister once told her, "No country has an 'interest' in other countries; only 'interests.'" Her response: "I am not naive and can understand commercial interests; I can understand strategic interests; however, I do not think it is in the interest of any nation to let these 'interests' override concern for human rights."

"Plenty of groups go to record the event of persecution, then they leave when the persecution ends," said Dennis Bennett, president of U.S. relief group Servant's Heart. "But persecution is not an event. It takes decades to recover from the physical loss and economic devastation. That is why Caroline Cox goes back over and over. She's building relationships and trust. She's not interested in Band-Aids, not interested in creating a Christian welfare state out of persecuted people." Besides drawing attention to the fact of persecution, Mrs. Cox has changed the way the church in the West thinks about it, Mr. Bennett said. "The Christian church has to recognize you don't repair overnight and the problems are not answered only by prayer. You have to be interested in long-term infrastructure, in making friendships that will be there for eternity."

With upcoming U.S. publication of the book, The 'West', Islam and Islamism (published in London by Civitas, due out from The American Foreign Policy Council, January 2005), Mrs. Cox (with colleague and co-author John Marks) turns to what she now hopes can be a "redemptive aspect" to the war on terror and her own experiences. With the 9/11 attacks, "suddenly the tragedy of the suffering that we see in Islamic countries is not on another planet," she says. "This is a wakeup call to stop neglecting the suffering at the hands of militant Islam." She believes Christians and other non-Muslims are not the only victims of jihadist regimes; so are most Muslims. The Islamic regime in Khartoum, for instance, represents less than 5 percent of Sudan's population.

"Islam is not inherently a religion of peace," she said. Nonetheless, "we have to give the hand of friendship to moderate Muslims." Putting that into practice for the baroness meant joining a commission on reconciliation in Indonesia headed by former president Abdurrahman Wahid. The group is bringing once coexisting Muslims and Christians together from embattled parts of Indonesia.

Like much of Mrs. Cox's work, that mission is charged with tension and risk. Mrs. Cox is cautious about family and other personal details for fear of exposing her family to threats. A prison sentence in Khartoum and death threats in several parts of the world hang over her. Asked if her own family worries about her, she says, "Sometimes I call them when I am back."

Returning to England does include time for children and grandchildren, and for worship. An Anglo-Catholic and Third Order Franciscan, she attends services once a week no matter where she is "if at all possible." At home that means the Anglican St. John's church in Middlesex. She also finds time for "recuperative exercise" like tennis and long walks, even though, as Mrs. Cox describes it, she receives much more than she gives on any harrowing journey.

Each step in her career, she says, has been less about premeditated ambition and more about walking through the next door that opens. That helps to explain why she not only endures but enjoys long days on the field or floor of Parliament where little sleep and inferior tea out of Styrofoam cups are the norm. And why, when her husband died in 1997, she found even more time for missions and speaking abroad. "When God gives you a vacuum, you fill it."

For her the overall pursuit has changed little since age 11, when she chose Joshua 1:9 as her confirmation verse: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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