Yolande Korkie: The family chooses to forgive

The family of South African teacher Pierre Korkie, who was killed in a botched rescue mission in Yemen, said on Sunday they choose to forgive and rejoice in his memories.

His wife Yolande Korkie said after hearing the news she asked herself many questions and realised people had a choice. “So today we choose to forgive. We choose to love. We choose to rejoice in the memories of Pierre and keep him alive in our hearts. We honour Pierre’s legacy and give Glory to God for his life and death,” she said in a statement. 

“We resolve to live in the embrace of God – until our time comes to be reunited. Even though this pain is overwhelming us right now, we choose to believe that this too will pass.” The statement was sent on behalf of Yolande and their two children.

Rescue operation
Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers were killed in the early hours of Saturday during a rescue operation carried out by United States Special Forces in Yemen. Korkie and Yolande were kidnapped in Taiz, Yemen, in May last year. 

She said her heart was breaking for herself, her children, their family and the people who travelled the road with them. Pierre Korkie was a hostage for 558 days, she said. 

“Although we were separated in the flesh after 228 days when I was released, I remained with him in the spirit until the end. On 6 December 2014, my dearest friend and companion and godly daddy was torn from me and the children,” the statement read.

“The furnace of 19 months has been relentless and red hot. Thus I had to really think very hard and long for an appropriate approach in the face of this pain.” 

Yolande Korkie was released on January 10 and returned to South Africa on January 13. The Gift of the Givers had helped negotiate her release. At the time of the kidnapping, Korkie was a teacher in Yemen and she did relief work in hospitals.

The kidnappers demanded $3-million (about R32.5-million) in exchange for Korkie’s safe return.

On Sunday, Yolande Korkie said she had done more in one year than she did in 10 years and said the family valued the “special people God” brought to the table and gave “Him Glory for strengthening the hands and minds and hearts of all these people”. 

“Our children, Peter and Lize. I praise God for you. You are the bravest. GotG [Gift of the Givers] – Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Anas al Hamati – I salute you for your passionate commitment and perseverance. No obstacle was too big. You gave me a second chance to be with our children. 

“The tribes of Yemen – we don’t know your names, but your willingness to risk your lives deserves praise. You are one of a kind nation. May God bless you all,” the statement read.

She thanked the South African government and said the family could never begin to express its gratitude for the support, advice and availability, she said. She thanked people from across the world who prayed for the family, the Yemen Embassy, the media and the American embassy that are repatriating Pierre Korkie’s body. 

“It [the repatriating] is greatly appreciated and a most special gift. I realise there are so many questions that are unanswered. Please forgive me if I don’t endeavour on them right now,” she said. 

“Tomorrow [Monday] Pierre will be returned to us as he saw in a vision; we will spend time with him saying goodbye and reaching for some sort of closure.” 

She said there would be a combined press conference and more details would follow. A memorial service would be held in Bloemfontein later the week followed by a private burial service. 

SA government saddened by Korkie’s death
Government is “deeply saddened” to learn that South African teacher Pierre Korkie was killed in a botched rescue mission in Yemen, the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) said on Sunday.

“The South African Government was deeply saddened to learn yesterday that fellow South African, Mr Pierre Korkie … was killed during an operation by American special forces aimed at freeing hostages,” Dirco said in a statement.

“The South African Government sends deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Korkie for their loss. Condolences are also conveyed to the family and loved ones of the deceased American hostage.”

Dirco said the South African government undertook “numerous initiatives” through the former deputy minister and the ambassador in Saudi Arabia to help secure Korkie’s release. “We are therefore saddened that the kidnapping ended in the tragic death of Mr Korkie, a man innocent of any crime,” Dirco said.

“Accordingly, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane would like to express the South African government’s firm and unconditional condemnation of all forms of terrorism that invariably result in the senseless suffering and loss of innocent lives.”

Nkoana-Mashabane had a telephonic discussion with her Yemeni counterpart on Sunday about Korkie. Dirco said the Yemeni minister expressed the Yemeni government and people’s condolences to the government and the people of South Africa. Korkie’s body is expected to arrive in the country on Monday. More details were not immediately available. – Sapa

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