God and journalism: American reportedly beheaded by ISIS wrote about his faith

What absolutely crushing news.

Amid all the brutal headlines involving the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria (important background here) came a YouTube video Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

The key facts from the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON — Militants from the group Islamic State released a video Tuesday that appeared to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley in an act of retribution for U.S. airstrikes on the group in Iraq.

The graphic video, which U.S. intelligence agencies were trying to verify, raised new dangers for President Barack Obama's Middle East policy. It showed a masked militant, speaking in British-accented English, threatening to kill more Americans if the U.S. military campaign continued.

"You are no longer fighting an insurgency," the militant said in the 4½-minute video. "We are an Islamic army."

The video was posted online one day after Mr. Obama commended American and Iraqi forces for routing Islamic State fighters who had seized Iraq's largest dam.

Most of the initial news stories I've read — including those by the Washington Post and the New York Times — ignore Foley's own faith background. 

The Associated Press hints at his religious affiliation in an otherwise nice profile out of Rochester, N.H., headlined "American journalist killed in Syria aware of risks." From that piece:

At Foley's family home in Rochester, a light burned yellow in a center upstairs window and a yellow ribbon adorned a tree at the foot of the driveway. The Rev. Paul Gousse, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, where the Foleys are parishioners, spent about 45 minutes at the house but left without commenting.

Foley, 40, and another journalist were working in the northern province of Idlib in Syria when they were kidnapped near the village of Taftanaz.

But in the city where Foley graduated from Marquette University — a Catholic and Jesuit institution — the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel nails the faith angle. 

The Journal Sentinel notes that Foley previously was among "four journalists kidnapped by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists in Libya in April 2011." The Milwaukee story describes a letter Foley wrote to his alma mater after 44 days in captivity:

The letter tells of Foley saying the rosary with a fellow prisoner in a Tripoli jail and being allowed to make a phone call home while in captivity. His mother answered.
"Oh Jimmy, so many people are praying for you," she tells him. "They're having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don't you feel our prayers?"
"I do, Mom, I feel them," he tells her, and then adds, "Maybe it was others' prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat."
The letter ends with Foley describing how, in his last day in Tripoli, he was able to watch (former classmate Thomas) Durkin via the Internet speaking about him to a room full of Marquette supporters.
"I watched the best speech a brother could give for another," Foley wrote. "It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us.
"It didn't make sense, but faith did."

No ghosts there, folks. Kudos to the Journal Sentinel.

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