Kayla Mueller

ABC News' 20/20 sets record straight on Kayla Mueller's witness to her Christian faith

ABC News' 20/20 sets record straight on Kayla Mueller's witness to her Christian faith

The story of Kayla Mueller, a 25-year-old American aid worker in Turkey whose quick trip over the Syrian border to Aleppo in August 2013 turned into a hellish captivity ending with her death in February 2015, got new life last week when ABC News 20/20 ran an hour-long special: "The Girl Left Behind."

We've reported on how the network, which has been following Mueller’s story for years, has sounded confused as to whether Kayla's faith played a role at all in her travails. Now they've come up with many new details about her captivity, including a tortuous final year where she was forcibly “married” to ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. even though she had not converted to Islam, as has been alleged before. Plus, she had stood up to the notorious “Jihadi John” about her Christian faith.

ABC went out of its way to emphasize the latter with this headline to their story: “Kayla Mueller in captivity: Courage, selflessness as she defended Christian faith to ISIS executioner ‘Jihadi John.’ Here is how the written summary begins:

American hostage Kayla Mueller was tortured, verbally abused, forced into slave labor for ISIS commanders in Syria and raped by the group's top leader, but her fellow hostages say she never surrendered hope, she selflessly put the welfare of fellow captives above her own and she even stood up to executioner "Jihadi John" to defend her Christian faith.
Four former hostages who shared cells with Mueller, speaking publicly for the first time about their shared ordeal for ABC News' "20/20" broadcast, "The Girl Left Behind," airing Friday, say the Prescott, Arizona, humanitarian aid worker was a courageous 25-year-old who inspired them.

The report, narrated by investigative correspondent Brian Ross, had come up with lots of new details and new video (see above) about her 18 months of captivity.

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Kayla Mueller's faith: What was God's role in life of American killed while being held by Islamic State?

Kayla Mueller's faith: What was God's role in life of American killed while being held by Islamic State?

Is there a holy ghost in media coverage of Kayla Mueller's life?

The 26-year-old American was killed while being held hostage by Islamic State extremists, her family and the White House confirmed Tuesday.

In a letter released by her family and cited frequently in news reports, Mueller referred to "our creator" and mentioned God five times.

The Los Angeles Times highlighted a portion of the letter:

“By God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light [and] have learned that even in prison, one can be free,” she wrote. “I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.”

Meanwhile, Reuters noted:

Mueller's family quoted from another letter she sent her father on his birthday in 2011: "I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering."

But journalists struggled to uncover more concrete details about Mueller's specific faith and religious background. 

Some major news organizations — including The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post — avoided any mention of God at all.

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