"David and I were best friends as well as brothers. This is the story of our paths in life, what happened to David, and why I am trying to fight the hate terrorists seek to sow, by spreading a message of unity, tolerance and understanding."
– Mike Haines
Because our parents were in the armed forces, as children David and I lived in many different countries. There were always new things to see and new friends to make, but they were left behind when mum and dad were posted to a different station. So, David and I were the only constants in each other’s lives. We were best friends as well as brothers, even though he was four years younger than me, and could be a right pain in the rear.
Mum and dad brought us up with love and care. They taught us respect for other people’s cultures and a dislike of prejudice and discrimination. And when we grew up, David and I both joined the RAF. But then our paths diverged. I became a mental health nurse, while David went to serve with the UN, and then to work in humanitarian roles, helping people in need, no matter who they were or what they believed in.
At the beginning of March 2013, David travelled with a French organisation called ACTED to help refugees in Syria. Barely a week later, I got a phone call from ACTED telling me that David had been kidnapped by a group calling themselves the ‘Islamic State’, otherwise known as ISIS.
However, within the space of a month in the late summer of 2014, ISIS posted footage online of the murders of three of its hostages. The first two were Americans, Jim Foley and Stephen Sotloff, and the third was my brother, David.
His barbaric and very public death was a huge shock for all the family, and it left us bereft. I found it hard to come to terms with the fact that my brother was dead.
If I live with anger and hate, the terrorists have won. Through creating fear and distrust, they want to turn us against each other. They want to turn community against community.
So, I want to talk of unity, tolerance and understanding.
By reaching out and talking to someone from a different faith or background, we can break down the walls that terrorists seek to build between us. We can combat the hate, fear and discord that all kinds of terrorists seek to sow in our communities.
If each and every one of us can open our minds, hearts and arms to other communities we do not understand, then we can only grow closer and our resistance to intolerance and hate grows stronger.
This fight against terrorism is not in some far-off country, but here and now, and we are all involved.
"If I hate the people who killed my brother, they win. I will not let hatred enter into my life. I will fight to my dying breath against the fear and discord they seek to instill in us. This is now my path in life. This is why I created Global Acts of Unity."
– Mike Haines
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