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Islamic State hostage found his calling in Mideast

October 14, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A U.S. aid worker being held by the Islamic State group told family and teachers that he’d found his calling in 2012 when he decided to stay in the Middle East instead of returning to college, according to an email released Tuesday by his family.

Peter Kassig sent the email while visiting Lebanon on a spring break trip. In it, he described seeing thousands of refugees crammed into deplorable conditions in which medical supplies, food and furniture were all in short supply.

“Yesterday my life was laid out on a table in front of me. With only hours left before my scheduled flight back to the United States, I watched people dying right in front of me. I had seen it before and I had walked away before,” wrote Kassig, a former Army Ranger who had been deployed in Iraq. “I’m just not going to turn my back this time; it’s as simple as that.”

The email was dated March 18, 2012. He later founded a relief organization but was captured Oct. 1, 2013, while delivering aid in eastern Syria.

The Indianapolis native converted to Islam while in captivity and changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig. His parents told The Associated Press on Monday that his conversion began months before he was captured and included observing the fast of Ramadan in 2013.

His captors threatened to behead him in a video released Oct. 3. Since then, Kassig’s parents and friends have pleaded for his release and worked to spread the story of the 26-year-old’s humanitarian work in Syria, where millions of people have fled the conflict. The email sent from Beirut in 2012 paints a picture of a man who has finally found what he was seeking.

“This decision isn’t one that everyone would make,” Kassig acknowledged. “But those of you that really know me understand that this is what I was made to do.

“For most, this world is madness, but for me, the madness resides in the world I’m leaving behind.”

The release of the emails Tuesday came as Kassig’s mother, Paula, took to Twitter again in an attempt to communicate with his captors. The militants have not released any additional information about Kassig since the video was released earlier this month.

“I implore you in the name of the almighty God to communicate with us to discuss our son’s fate as he only seeks to serve God and the teachings of Islam,” Paula Kassig wrote.

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