Terry Waite: Finding Inner Strength

This resource is great for:
Thinking about how people find inner strength in difficult situations.

Watch an interview with humanitarian and author, Terry Waite, and then use the discussion points to explore hostage situations, finding strength in difficult circumstances, religion and forgiveness.


Terry Waite was kidnapped in January 1987 during a trip to Beirut in Lebanon, where he was sent as envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury to negotiate the release of several hostages. He was released in 1991.

During the majority of his 1,760 days at the hands of his captives he was starved of contact with the outside world.

In 2015, he delivered the Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  Before his event, he spoke about his experiences with 15 year old Anna Cooper specially for the Book Festival learning site.

Watch the interview and then use the discussion points below as prompts for your own class conversations.

Activity – Discussion Points

  • At the start of the interview, Terry Waite discusses the isolation he endured:What does his answer teach us about how people cope with being alone?

    Discuss his views on living a life inside his head and writing an entire book in his imagination.

  • Watch from 2 minutes 48 seconds – in this section Terry explains his attitude to his kidnappers:

What do you think about his willingness to meet his captors on friendly terms and have amicable discussions with them?

How easy would you find it to show similar forgiveness to someone who has inflicted cruelty or bullying on you?

What are your thoughts on what he says about having to engage with people who have conflicting views to our own? Do you agree that some people or political and religious groups can never be successfully negotiated with?

  • Watch from 4 minutes 11 seconds – in this section Terry describes the moment he believed he was going to be killed:

Are you surprised Terry was more afraid of the pain of being killed than of death itself? Do you think his religious conviction had an impact on this?

Discuss his description of feeling as if he had left his body as he prepared to die.

Could having come so close to death have a positive impact of a person’s way of living? Think about people you know who have changed their life after surviving a serious illness or accident.

  • Thinking about all of the clips you have seen:

What do think of the way Terry has coped with his experience and how it has impacted on his life since?

The topic of the Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture is “inspiration.” In what ways do you find Terry Waite inspirational?

Further information:

Following his experience, Terry Waite set up a charity called Hostage UK. You can find out more about the charity on their website: hostageuk.org

You can listen to Terry delivering the full Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture here: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/media-gallery/item/terry-waite-2015-event

More about the Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture:

In 2008, Frederick Hood died tragically in an avalanche at the age of 28. Fred revelled in academia, studying in the UK, US and Italy. He was also active in the arts, debating and drama as well as in business and finance.

The Frederick Hood event was established by Fred’s former colleagues at Walter Scott to celebrate his life and talents. The idea of an annual lecture under the auspices of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, with whom Walter Scott shares a Charlotte Square address, seemed an apt way to embrace the subjects, the city and the festival of which he was so passionate.

Inspiration comes in many forms and the ambition of the annual Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture is to highlight, honour and promote an inspirational individual or event. The pre-requisite is simply a story of inspiration, the source of which is limitless.

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Supported by Walter Scott & Partners Limited