Relatives of British aid workers murdered by ISIS met Pope Francis at the end of the general audience in the Vatican today.
Mike Haines, the brother of David Haines, and Barbara Henning, the widow of Alan Henning, spoke to Pope Francis this morning. Mrs Henning was blessed by Pope Francis during the meeting.
Mr Henning, 47, was a taxi driver and volunteer who was delivering aid to Syria when he was kidnapped and held hostage by ISIS militants. A video of his brutal murder was released in October 2014.
A video showing the murder of David Haines was released in September 2014 after he had been taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 while working for an international relief agency.
Since the murder of his brother, Mike Haines has dedicated his efforts to promoting inter-religious tolerance and unity against extremism. Speaking to the Associated Press after the meeting, Mr Haines said the moment “took (his) breath breath away” and that the Pope “said he was going to pray for me to continue the work that we’re doing on unity and tolerance and bringing our communities together.”
Speaking ahead of the general audience, on the Feast of the Annunciation, the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, said: “Mike Haines will be bringing to the Vatican his message of inter-religious understanding. Pope Francis has called for a common commitment to end fighting, hatred and violence. Mike Haines is living that commitment in an extraordinary way.”
In October 2014, Mr Haines signed a joint letter with Mrs Henning, the widow of Alan Henning who was also murdered by ISIS in 2014, calling for “unity of people of all faiths in our society” and urging “churches, mosques, synagogues to open their doors and welcome people of all faiths”.
Earlier, he told the BBC: “My first reaction could be one of hatred. But my brother’s life wasn’t about hatred. It was about love for all men. Radicalisation remains the biggest threat to the wholesale safety of every person in the world. Increasingly we are seeing more and more radicalisation in every walk of life.
“It is not a race, religion or political issue – it is a human issue and it is in our everyday lives.”
David Haines, who died at the age of 44, was married with two children. He was abducted in March last year while working in the Atmeh refugee camp, in Syria, for the French aid agency Acted. He spent more than two decades working with aid agencies in Syria, Libya, the former Yugoslavia and South Sudan.