Educating Omar Khadr

Tapestry's 2016 Gabriel Award-winning interview "Educating Omar". When Omar Khadr was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, he received a postcard from an English professor in Edmonton. Through letters and book reports, Arlette Zinck became Khadr's teacher and friend. It was a profound spiritual experience that changed her life.
It was a profound spiritual experience that would change her life — and his 0:52

Click LISTEN to hear Tapestry's 2016 Gabriel Award-winning interview "Educating Omar".

In 2008, Arlette Zinck wrote a letter to Omar Khadr - who, depending on your point of view, was either a convicted terrorist, or "Guantanamo's Child."

In that letter, Zinck gave Khadr an assignment: "Find any book. Let me know what the title is and we'll talk about it."

Arlette Zinck has been tutoring Omar Khadr ever since. She is an associate professor of English at The King's University, a Christian school in Edmonton.

I read through a book report that looked for all the world like a legal affidavit… point by point, numbered paragraphs...that's what he knew.- Arlette Zinck

Zinck and Khadr exchanged letters for several years - hers were lesson plans, his were book reports.  His reading list included Anne of Green Gables, Great Expectations and Three Cups of Tea.  

Arlette Zinck isn't an activist, never has been. She comes from a military family. She's the first one to admit she doesn't know what happened during the 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that left one American soldier dead. Omar Khadr was convicted of war crimes, including murder.

What Arlette Zinck does know is that whoever Khadr was when he was 15 years old  -  whatever he might have done - her faith calls her to show up. The back-and-forth letters between them marked the beginning of a deep spiritual experience for Zinck.

The clips of Omar Khadr in this programme come from the documentary Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows, produced by Patrick Reed, Michelle Shepard and Peter Raymont for White Pine Pictures, in association with the CBC. 

21 June 2010

Dear Omar,

Thank you so much for your kind note and for the outstanding book review. I am deeply impressed by your thoughtful critique of a painful story. A good book review always tells as much about the reviewer as it does the book itself, and your review is especially wonderful in this respect. Omar, since 2002 you have grown from a little boy into a man who is full of wisdom, compassion and insight.  

Your assessment of Ishmael Beah's story is firmly rooted in your own experience, and all that you have learned and are learning is apparent in each and every line of this text. Even though you are not in formal classes right now, never doubt that you are learning things that are exquisitely important. You have an alert and inquisitive mind, and your sensitivity and wisdom allow you to understand things at a much deeper level than many others will ever be able to attain. So, my dear friend, keep reading, listening, thinking and seeking to understand.

Read Arlette Zinck's entire letter to Omar Khadr.


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