James Foley, the U.S. journalist slain by Islamic State militants after being held in captivity for nearly two years, will be remembered Sunday at a Mass of Remembrance in his hometown.
Foley was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising. The Islamic State posted a Web video Tuesday showing his murder and said it was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq.
President Barack Obama has called Foley a hero for telling the stories of oppressed people in war-torn regions like Syria and Libya. The U.S. launched a raid this summer to rescue Foley and other hostages, but special forces were unable to locate the captives.
The Mass at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) Sunday is in Foley’s hometown church, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester.
At a vigil Saturday night in Rochester, about 200 people gathered to show support for the Foley family. Foley’s parents, John and Diane Foley, attended, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported.
“We are honoured that you care and love Jim. We are honoured that you recognized the sacrifices he made,” John Foley said. “He loved the Syrian people. He was devoted to telling their story and doing whatever he could to help their fight.”
Speakers praised Foley’s determination to report on the Syrian people uprooted by conflict.
“Tonight we want to honour freedom and love: the freedom that James so vehemently believed that all people deserved,” said Nadia Alawa, founder of NuDay Syria, a Massachusetts-based organization working to ease the pain and loss in Syria. “To James Foley, denying others freedom and a basic voice of feelings and free space was not OK.”
She also condemned the campaign of terror and violence carried out by the Islamic State.
“(ISIS) thrives on using the name of Islam to justify their vengeful acts that targets innocent non-Muslims as well as Muslims for no apparent, rational reasons,” Alawa said. “As a Muslim, I refuse to let terrorists take my religion as hostage.”
The world’s largest bloc of Islamic nations also denounced Foley’s “heinous” killing and reiterated its support for international efforts to confront the Islamic State.
Iyad Madani, chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said in a statement Saturday that the actions of the Islamic State have nothing to do with the values of Islam or his organization’s founding principles of tolerance and co-existence.