BEIRUT — Families of eight Americans held by pro-Iranian groups expressed hope in letters published today that the kidnapers' "hearts will soften" and they will release the hostages this holiday season.
In the two letters published in the An Nahar newspaper, they also told the captives: "We pray that God will grant you strength, courage and grace during this long and painful ordeal."
The families said they were approaching the holiday season "with heavy hearts," but assured the hostages, "You are not forgotten by us or by the American people.
"We work and pray for peace and justice throughout the Middle East and especially for the people of Lebanon."
One of the letters was addressed to the hostages and the other "to the captors of the American hostages in Lebanon."
12 Years of War
In the second letter, the families said they sympathize with the Lebanese people who have suffered through 12 years of civil war.
"We pray daily for our hostages but we also hold the people of Lebanon in our hearts and prayers," they said.
"Let us pray together that this holiday season will mark the end of the pain and hostility that is tearing your country and our hearts to pieces."
Peggy Say, the sister of hostage Terry Anderson, the longest-held American, said from her home in Batavia, N.Y., that the letters also were published in the Beirut newspaper As Safir but she did not know of any personal letters sent to the hostages or their captors.
Say said she and her pastor, the Rev. Thomas Vickers of Batavia, wrote the letters and circulated them among hostage families for approval.
Say said the letters are more important this year than similar pleas in the last three years Anderson has been a captive because the kidnaping of Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite has left the hostages without much hope.