by Bob Burnett 03/22/06
If you’re a fan of Bob Dylan, you’ll remember his anti-boxing song, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” This ponders the death of world featherweight champion Moore, who died of head injuries incurred in a bout on March 21, 1963. Dylan repeatedly asks, “Who killed Davey Moore? Why an’ what’s the reason for?” He repeats the haunting refrain as he considers the perspectives of the participants: referee, crowd, managers, gamblers, reporters, and the other boxer.

I remembered this song, because I’ve been thinking about Tom Fox.

Who killed Tom Fox? Why and what’s the reason for?

Tom Fox was a 54-year-old Virginia Quaker whose body was found in Iraq on Friday, March 10th. Tom died from gunshot wounds to his head and chest. His hands had been tied and there were cuts on his body and bruises on his head.

Tom Fox had been in Iraq since October 2004 as a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams. He’d worked on three projects: helping families of incarcerated Iraqis, escorting shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals, and helping form Islamic Peacemaker Teams. Tom was kidnapped, along with three other Christian Peacemaker workers, on November 26th.

Who killed Tom Fox? Why and what’s the reason for?

As a Quaker, I take Tom Fox’s death personally. Even though I didn’t know Tom, I have friends who did. Quakers are a relatively small group in the US, roughly 100,000, and there are few degrees of separation between us.

When I first heard that he had been captured, I was surprised that he was in Iraq at all. Before and during the invasion, Quakers had an active presence in Iraq-providing humanitarian assistance through the American Friends Service Committee, but one by one all those folks left as the situation became increasingly dangerous. I figured that Tom had a calling and felt he had to honor it by joining the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, regardless of the danger.

Who killed Tom Fox? Why and what’s the reason for?

For those of you who are not Quakers this may seem like craziness. But, within the history of The Society of Friends-the formal name for Quakers-it’s totally consistent. Since our beginning, in 1651, Quakers have had two characteristics that frequently get us in trouble: we believe that if you call yourself a Christian you should follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. And, we believe that God speaks directly to believers.

Quakers note that Jesus was a pacifist. So we all try, in our own way, to be pacifists. Actually, all Christians used to be pacifists, but this changed in 313 AD when the bureaucracy of the Christian church reached an accommodation with the Roman Emperor Constantine: only priests had to be pacifists and only Christians could be in the Roman army.

Quakers also believe that Jesus taught that God speaks directly to individuals, sometimes calls them to take individual action. That’s what Tom Fox believed; that’s why he was in Iraq.

Who killed Tom Fox? Why and what’s the reason for?

Tom’s Iraq blog is his sad and informative legacy. His last entry was written the day before he was abducted. Why are we here?

“If I understand the message of God, his response to that question is that we are to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. As I survey the landscape here in Iraq, dehumanization seems to be the operative means of relating to each other. We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exists within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization. We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God’s children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls.”

Tom told his friends that if he was captured or killed they should not take revenge on those responsible.

Who killed Tom Fox? Why and what’s the reason for?

Out here on the radical fringe of Christianity, there are those of us who believe that there are worse things than being killed standing up for what you believe in. We feel that it’s better to honor our personal integrity, our relationship with the divine, than to play it safe.

Out here on the edge, there are those of us who believe that Jesus didn’t suffer just one time all those years ago up on a lonely cross. We feel that Jesus dies in every generation, whenever good folks stand up for righteousness. This Jesus perished in the Holocaust and in the collapse of the Twin Towers. This Jesus expired when Tom Fox was tortured and shot. This Jesus dies over and over until human kind gets that we have to learn to live together in peace and justice.

That’s why Tom Fox died. That’s the reason for.

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and Quaker activist. He can be reached at