President Obama said in a statement Sunday afternoon that ISIS’ “actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith” which an executed American “adopted as his own.”
Peter Kassig, 26, who founded a humanitarian aid organization to assist Syrian refugees, previously served in Iraq as a Ranger in the U.S. Army. ISIS released a video of his beheading Sunday, more than a year after his capture in Raqqah.
He reportedly converted to Islam while in captivity, a report now often heard of Islamic State captives trying to survive.
News stories generally have referred to him as Peter, but his parents referred to him as Abdul-Rahman as well as his given name.
“We are heartbroken to learn that our son, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, has lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering,” Ed and Paula Kassig said in a statement. “Our heart also goes out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son.”
Eighteen Syrians were also beheaded in the Kassig video.
Obama’s statement referred to the Indianapolis native as “Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known to us as Peter.”
“Abdul-Rahman was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity. Like Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff before him, his life and deeds stand in stark contrast to everything that ISIL represents,” Obama said. “While ISIL revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict. While ISIL exploits the tragedy in Syria to advance their own selfish aims, Abdul-Rahman was so moved by the anguish and suffering of Syrian civilians that he traveled to Lebanon to work in a hospital treating refugees.”
“Later, he established an aid group, SERA, to provide assistance to Syrian refugees and displaced persons in Lebanon and Syria. These were the selfless acts of an individual who cared deeply about the plight of the Syrian people.”
Obama said while mourning “we also recall that the indomitable spirit of goodness and perseverance that burned so brightly in Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and which binds humanity together, ultimately is the light that will prevail over the darkness of ISIL.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a statement on “Abdul-Rahman AKA Peter Kassig.”
“Like his fellow veterans of the 9/11 generation, his strong desire to continue making a difference in the world after serving in uniform — to continue leading a life of purpose — is an inspiration to us all,” Hagel said. “His brutal murder is one more reminder of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) ruthless barbarity; there is no starker contrast between the inhumanity of ISIL and the bright and generous spirit of the young man they murdered.”