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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Amanda Lindhout forgives captors

Alberta journalist Amanda Lindhout, who was freed last year after being kidnapped in Somalia, told CBC News in a one-on-one interview that she has forgiven her captors.

Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were freed last November, 15 months after gunmen in Somalia snatched them in August 2008. A ransom was reportedly paid to secure their release.

Lindhout said she was kept alone in rooms with no light and little food in houses throughout Somalia and held for ransom under "extremely oppressive" conditions that included torture and beatings.

At the time, Lindhout said her and Brennan's kidnappers were criminals posing as freedom fighters.

In an interview, Lindhout told the CBC's Curt Petrovich she had a choice to make when she came out of captivity.

"You can very easily go into anger and bitterness and revenge thoughts and resentment and 'Why me?'" said Lindhout.

While there were moments when such thoughts popped up in her mind, she dismissed them quickly, she said.

"Because I had something very, very large and very painful to forgive, and by choosing to do that, I was able to put into place my vision, which was making Somalia a better place," Lindhout said.

Lindhout's vision is to empower Somali women by educating them through a scholarship fund. She is raising money, one donation at a time, by talking to whoever will listen, including church and community groups, throughout Alberta and elsewhere.

One recent Sunday, she spoke to a small church congregation in Sylvan Lake and managed to raise $4,500, which is enough to send four women to university in Somalia for a year.

Aurala Warsame, a researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton who is from Somalia, vetted the first applicants to Lindhout's scholarship program and is monitoring their progress.

Warsame has helped Lindhout pick 11 women for the scholarship this year. Two are planning to study environmental protection, another wants to work as a counselor to youth traumatized by war. Lindhout's goal is to put 100 Somali women through university.

"I've never questioned whether or not it was the right thing to do," Lindhout said. "What else to do after the experience that I had, than something like this?"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Amanda Lindhout sets up scholarship for Somali women

Freelance journalist, Amanda Lindhout, who was held captive in Somalia for 15 months is hoping to send 10 Somali girls to school this fall through a scholarship program she has set up.

Lindhout met with members of a Red Deer congregation Sunday, thanking them for praying for her while she was kept captive.

"I was abused in many ways that were justified in accordance with a very strict interpretation of Islamic law and I feel a great deal of empathy and compassion for the women who continue to suffer there," said Lindhout.

The freelance journalist who was captured along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan in August 2008 says she has set up a scholarship program to help girls in war-torn Somalia get an education.

"I said to myself, ‘if I get out of here I want to dedicate my life to helping other people,'" she said.

Lindhout is hoping to send 10 Somali girls to school this fall and another 100 over the next four years. Radio broadcasts in the safer parts of Somalia will spread the word about the scholarships Monday. In more dangerous areas the news will be spread by word-of-mouth.

"We can't advertise it publically because yes, there could be repercussions for girls in southern Somalia to be seen taking a scholarship from an unbeliever," said Lindhout.

Lindhout says she works on forgiving those who captured her everyday, but those in her hometown believe she has already has.

"Just setting up this scholarship fund is, in and of itself, an act of forgiveness," said Pastor Gary Bomhof from the First Christian Reformed Church.

The mayor of Sylvan Lake agrees.

"It shows the unbelievable strength that Amanda has to recognize the needs in that country," said Mayor Susan Samson.

However, Lindhout says it is the women of Somalia who deserve praise.

"I'm inspired by the resilience and strength of their spirit," said Lindhout. "Powerful social and economic change takes place when a woman is educated."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Amanda Lindhout puts inspiration to work