Healing of the Mind, Body, and Soul

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From Hostage to Healer – An Interview with The Times of Malta

David Cunningham was still settling down in his week-old job as a manager at a central hotel in Kuwait City when, on August 2, 1990, he was woken up at 4am to mayhem in the streets and a lobby full of invading Iraqi soldiers. Mr Cunningham is perhaps a living testimony that every cloud has a silver lining. “If I hadn’t been taken hostage, today I’d probably be a tired old hotel manager with a drink problem somewhere in the Middle East.

I am grateful for what happened to me because in those three months I could look at what my life had been. Kuwait was being taken over by Iraq troops and Mr Cunningham, a Briton, was one of the hundreds of civilian westerners taken as hostages by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Today, more than 40 years on, Mr Cunningham is adamant that, although those 100 days as a human shield were terrifying, they were “the best thing” that could have happened to him.

After travelling the World, David now lives in  the North East of England. Recounting the tough time he endured, he speaks of how when he was initially held at his hotel, he had no time to feel the fear because he was taken up with the well-being of the Kuwait Plaza Hotel guests. “In true British fashion, I assuaged the crisis by supplying everyone with tea,” he jokes.

After some days, together with other westerners, he was taken to a makeshift prison: a fenced-in T-72 tank mill next to a gas bomb plant. There he was appointed as representative of the hostages and every night he sat down with Saddam Hussein’s men to try and bargain for basic needs for his fellow prisoners. “I was used to giving orders to people, all my life, so I was very demanding but never rude,” he says. Thanks to his power of persuasion, he would manage to get “clean water, food, and even cigarettes”.

He feared most for his life the time he was suddenly awoken in the middle of the night and bundled on the back of a truck. Shouldered by Saddam Hussein’s elite soldiers bearing automatic weapons, he was convinced that his time was up. “I had no idea where they were taking me. I looked out of the window and made my peace with God,” he says.

It turned out they took him to Baghdad city hospital for check-ups and a prescription for his diabetes. His health problems got him released earlier than the others. In October 1990, he was flown back to England on a “mercy plane” full of sick hostages. I am grateful for what happened because in those three months I could look at what my life had been,” he says. He wrote letters to everyone, even people “he had had issues with” and made peace with himself. It gave him the opportunity, at 40, to start all over again with a blank slate.

David had spent most of working life in hotels around the world but he suddenly realised there was more to life. “I knew a new life was about to begin and while in captivity I promised God that if I were released I’d work for him.” Back in London after the ordeal, he was initially inundated by press attention but, soon, he became “old news” and took up a job as a manager in a hotel outside the capital. “But my heart was not into it. I felt I had to honour my promise to God.

He joined a hospital in Kent volunteering as a buddy to people suffering from HIV and Aids. His potential as a healer was recognised immediately and he was appointed as HIV counsellor for the Health Authority. From then on he never looked back and made healing his main profession, honouring the “gift of healing he was born with”.

Healing has to take place in the mind, the body and the soul, he says: “Sometimes, in the west we are concerned with treating the body but we forget all about the soul. In the 1990s, he was based at the prestigious Hale Clinic in London and also spent several years in the US where he worked with celebrities like Demi Moore and Bruce Willis.

He says most people come to him with severe illnesses, such as cancer, and they see him as their last hope. “In my 40 years as a counsellor and healer, I’ve learnt that every physical disease is caused by not dealing with unresolved emotional issues.” He gets people to release their pain so they are able to heal their soul, with one of the exercises being precisely what he did when he was a hostage: writing letters to people and burning them.

When people speak the truth, the burdens are released and they are at peace. He insists it is all about love: “When we don’t receive enough love we become unwell. There is nothing people can say that he hasn’t heard before or gone through himself: “I know what it’s like to come from a broken home, to be divorced, to lack unconditional love.

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