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Hostages should learn to forgive so as to let go of their trauma, or risk being a hostage forever.
This is the advice of Monique Strydom, who recalls her release after being held in captivity by Abu Sayyaf rebels in the jungle on the Philippine island of Jolo in 2000.
She was one of the 21 Sipadan hostages, who survived being held by the terrorist group who were under continuous attack by the military.
Strydom said people who were freed needed to realise that they had an opportunity to get their lives back.
“From our group there was one person who could not forgive and in the end he suffered from cancer because he could not let go.
“People need to realise that with trauma, it’s not about dealing with what happened, it’s how you deal with it afterwards.
“We forgave immediately. If you can’t forgive, you’ll be a hostage forever.”
Coming home was not very simple for Strydom, who had to face small challenges while orientating herself and reconnecting with her family.
“We had very strange challenges. We couldn’t drive and we had short concentration spans – not being able to focus on one thing for too long.
“It had a lot to do with the fact that we were emotionally exhausted. In the jungle we were on high alert all the time.
“The focus was on when we were going to be attacked.”
She said dealing with the trauma of the family was difficult.
“We didn’t really understand the trauma they were going through.”
Strydom empathised with Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, released by Somali pirates last Wednesday, but added that each hostage situation was different and had different dynamics.
She said she had arrived home about a week after she and her husband were released and that only when in her own environment did she realise they were free.
The return was bitter-sweet as other hostages remained.
“It continued for at least another month, because there were other hostages who were still there, so we came home with a feeling of relief and guilt.”
She said that only once all the hostages were freed, about a year later, did she really feel free.
Strydom is a motivational speaker, has won numerous awards and founded two charity trusts.
She set up the Callie and Monique Charity Trust and, in 2002, Matla a Bana (a voice against child abuse).