Mar 282004
Authors: Christiana Nelson

In a cell in Beirut, Lebanon, two Americans were held hostage

and chained to a wall.

In the same cell, two French hostages were in the identical

position, but the Frenchmen understood their captivity situation

far better than the Americans.

“The French had a much better relationship with the guards,”

said Tom Sutherland, an American who remained a hostage in Beirut

for six and a half years.

“I learned that rather than be confrontational, if you talk to

the guards and treat them as human beings you are much more likely

to get information from them,” he said in a speech presented by the

newly formed Northern Colorado United Nations Association on campus

Saturday afternoon.

Sutherland continued by comparing the Frenchmen’s attitude

toward the guards with the United Nations’ approach to

international affairs.

Sutherland, who taught at CSU for 25 years and still lives in

the Fort Collins area, was kidnapped on June 5, 1983, in Beirut

during his employment as dean of agriculture at the American

University of Beirut.

During his presentation, Sutherland emphasized the importance of

the United Nations in his release from captivity and spoke to

approximately 50 people, gathered in an Engineering Building

lecture hall, about the necessity of maintaining the United Nations

for future generations.

“It was the U.N., ultimately, that did resolve our hostage

crisis,” Sutherland said. “When we were in captivity the terrorists

wanted nothing to do with the U.S. They went right to the U.N.”

Sutherland expressed his appreciation for Giandomenico Pico, the

U.N. leader in charge of Iraq and Iran, who negotiated with the

Iranian government for the release of the American hostages when

the United States was publicly maintaining a policy of


“Pico was instructed to go to a certain place and wait, then

he’d be blindfolded and taken to a building and they would take his

blindfold off, but they would all have hoods over their heads –

that’s how they did the talks,” Sutherland said.

Pico’s dialogues with Iran ultimately lead to Sutherland’s

release from captivity on Nov. 18, 1991.

During the speech audience members nodded and offered words of

approval as Sutherland expressed the need for a United Nations role

in international relations.

“Somehow we have to persuade big countries to listen to the

U.N.,” Sutherland said. “It seems like when you have a big

powerhouse like the United States, they don’t want to let any of

their control go.”

Norma Glad, an audience member and Fort Collins resident, said

that the United Nations’ role in Sutherland’s release remains an

excellent example of what can be accomplished without violence.

“He’s a man who’s been there. I like the way he put his speech

together and I agree with him in so many ways,” Glad said. “I want

peace; I want to be a part of the solution.”

Sutherland also spoke of the need for different cultures to

accumulate mutual respect and to learn other languages as a

communication tool.

“Our problem is that we don’t understand the rest of the world

near well enough,” Sutherland said.

Norman Illsley, Fort Collins resident who plans to join NCUNA,


“If we can promote people working with people rather than

institutions working with institutions, then we can start solving

the problems of people who make up the institutions,” Illsley said.

“Essentially it is starting from the ground up.”

As a new organization, NCUNA is building membership and

promoting the role of the United Nations across Northern Colorado.

Program committee coordinator Eleanor Dwight said Sutherland’s

situation remains a crucial example of the need for an

international peace forum.

“I think he reinforced the connection and the need for the U.N.

to maintain diplomatic relations, and help in things such as his

release,” she said.

Following the presentation, Dwight added that the median age at

the speech was older than she hopes it will be in the future.

“We would really love to have more students come join us,” she


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