Ex-hostage Terry Waite’s visit to Battle

Terry Waite (centre) with Emmaus residents, staff and trustees
Terry Waite (centre) with Emmaus residents, staff and trustees

A former hostage opened a homelessness charity’s new Battle shop on Saturday (December 19).

Terry Waite, a former Church of England envoy who spent more than four years as a hostage in Lebanon, said rising homelessness and cuts to local services meant demand for the charity’s services was greater than ever.

Emmaus Hastings & Rother is part of a worldwide secular movement that aims to help people move on from homelessness by giving them a home and work in a supportive environment.

Mr Waite, who is Emmaus UK president, opened the UK’s first Emmaus community in Cambridge in 1992 and there are now 25 communities around the country with more set to open.

He said the charity offered much more than just a bed. “The Emmaus model enables people to work according to their ability to regain their dignity,” he added.

Mr Waite had lunch at the Whitworth Road community with some of the 22 residents, who work in the two shops and warehouse restoring and reselling donated furniture and household goods.

He said the new shop’s range of restored furniture and vintage household items meant it fitted in well in Battle.

Mr Waite added: “People are becoming accustomed to charity shops, so to succeed you need to offer something different. This is more like an antique shop, where quality goods that have been donated are on sale.”

Mr Waite was the Assistant for Anglican Communion Affairs for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, in the 1980s.

As an envoy for the Church of England, he travelled to Lebanon to try to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy.

He arrived in Beirut on January 12, 1987 with the intention of negotiating with the Islamic Jihad Organization, which was holding the men. On January 20, 1987, he agreed to meet the captors of the hostages as he was promised safe conduct to visit the hostages, who, he was told, were ill. The group broke trust and took him hostage. Mr Waite remained in captivity for 1,763 days, the first four years of which were spent in solitary confinement. He was finally released on November 18, 1991.

As well as being president of Emmaus UK, he is president of the charity Y Care International (the YMCA’s international development and relief agency) and patron of AbleChildAfrica and Habitat for Humanity Great Britain.

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