Grief as a weapon for good

March 25, 2024 in Featured Podcasts, News

When James (Jim) Foley, an American journalist, was brutally murdered in 2014 by the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), a video showing his beheading was released by the group, shocking the world and drawing widespread condemnation. Jim Foley’s death was a horrific and senseless act of violence, but his heartbroken mother, Diane Foley, was determined that her son’s death would not be in vain.

In this interview with Pat Coyle, Diane is joined by well-known Irish author (based in New York) Colm McCann, who has just co-published a book with her, American Mother, about her and her son Jim. Together they speak about what they call ‘the God-instances’ that brought them together and how they continue.

Diane speaks of both her and Jim’s Jesuit connections. He attended the Jesuit-run Marquette University where ‘Be the Difference’ was their motto, which she says, changed him. She did the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius every week in a little church in Maine, all through Jim’s captivity in Syria. “Two years of prayer that got me through it,” she says.

Jim was held with hostages from other countries. Diane had to watch as they secured release while Jim remained captive. She explains why this happened and what she eventually ended up doing to make sure the same fate did not befall other American hostages. This included meeting then President Barack Obama, persuading him to change his mind about US policy on American hostages.

She and Colm also recount the meeting they eventually secured with her son’s killer. “How do you embrace your son’s killer?” asks Colm. Diane responds eloquently, acknowledging that being able to do so was not ‘cheap grace’.

Colm explains the importance of ‘story’ as a spiritually transforming energy, connecting humanity at its deepest level. To achieve this universal human connection Diane says “We need to radicalise our youth by telling stories back to one another: With God all things are possible.” Colm quotes the French proverb, “Happiness writes with pale ink, sometimes you need the darkness to tell the story.”