The parents of a US aid worker held captive by the Islamic State group have revealed he told them in a letter he was afraid to die, but that he had converted to Islam voluntarily and was at peace with his beliefs.
The group has threatened to behead 26-year-old Peter Kassig, from Indiana, who was captured in Syria on October 1 2013 while working with the Sera aid agency.
Ed and Paula Kassig said their son, now known as Abdul-Rahman Kassig, indicated in the letter received in June that he was not forced to convert.
They added that an ex-hostage told them he converted when he shared a cell with a devout Syrian muslim.
In the letter, Mr Kassig said he was scared, but that if he should die his parents should take comfort knowing he “went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need”.
"I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all,'' Mr Kassig said in the letter, according to his parents.
“I am very sad that all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through. If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need.”
The group said in a video after the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning last week that Mr Kassig would be next. The Kassigs pleaded for their son’s freedom in a video statement released Saturday.
According to a former Islamic State hostage, Mr Kassig voluntarily converted to Islam sometime between his capture and December 2013, the Kassigs said. He was known as Peter Kassig before his conversion.
The letter continues: “In terms of my faith, I pray every day and I am not angry about my situation in that sense. I am in a dogmatically complicated situation here, but I am at peace with my belief.”
The Kassigs say the complication appears to arise from his conversion but that they see this “as part our son’s long spiritual journey”.
According to the family, Mr Kassig is a former Army Ranger who formed the aid organisation Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or Sera, in Turkey to provide aid and assistance to Syrian refugees.
He began delivering food and medical supplies to Syrian refugee camps in 2012 and is also a trained medical assistant who provided trauma care to injured Syrian civilians and helped train 150 civilians in providing medical aid.