FORMER Beirut hostage Terry Waite gave an emotional address at a gala dinner to mark the coming of Emmaus to Burnley.
The former peace envoy who endured four years - 1,763 days - in solitary confinement during his incarceration spoke from the heart about his torment during those long harrowing years when he was in chains for 23 hours and 50 minutes each day.
But a chink of light through a crack in the wall gave him hope and he was able to survive the extreme isolation until his release.
Now he uses the inner mental strength and will to survive that came to him through those dark days to help others by travelling the world and supporting charities such as Emmaus helping homeless people whose lives have reached rock bottom to return to society and rebuild their lives with a home and a job.
Terry Waite CBE is president of Emmaus UK and returned for his third visit to Burnley to celebrate its launch as the 20th Emmaus in the country, 20 years after the organisation came to the UK.
More than 150 people at the Turf Moor dinner were welcomed by Emmaus patrons Sir Simon Towneley and Lord Carlile of Berriew and the evening raised more than £3,000. Terry Waite gave his inspiring and moving talk and praised the team of volunteers who had seen the Emmaus dream through to today’s thriving concern with its accommodation, training facilities and shop in the Duke Bar area of Burnley.
He urged his audience never to stereotype people living on the streets because the homeless all have family somewhere and come from all types of backgrounds, rich and poor but, for various reasons, often marital breakups or depression, find themselves penniless and homeless.
These are the people who Emmaus help by giving them accommodation, training in a skill to lead to a job and providing a structure to their lives so they can regain their dignity and self respect.
“I have empathy with people on the edge of life because I know what it is like to be them,” he said. “Suffering is part and parcel of life, but it need not destroy. Emmaus is there to help people live life and we see people who have been written off by society come back as fully contributing members of the community.”
He said in a few years everyone in Burnley will be fully aware of Emmaus and the Emmaus community will be fully self supporting. He stayed overnight at Emmaus House meeting staff and residents.