Amanda Lindhout forgives captors
Former hostage raising money for university scholarship fund
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.
Watch the full Amanda Lindhout interview on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC NN and at 10 p.m. local time on CBC Television (10:30 p.m. NT).
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?"