Josuha Casteel

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Josuha Casteel, after who our house of hospitality is named, was a veteran and shining light in the Catholic Peace movement. He was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1979. Raised in an evangelical household Joshua was President of the Young Republicans and carried a copy of the constitution around with him as a teenager. At seventeen years of age he enlisted in the U.S Army reserves and a year later was appointed to West Point Military Academy. Joshua reflected after his time in boot camp that there was something about the drills which they learned, such as “Kill, Kill, Kill without mercy” that did not quite sit right with someone who learned about the meek and humble Jesus at Sunday school. Joshua was trained as an Arabic translator and in 2004 was sent to Abu Ghraib prison as an interrogator.

One event in particular during his time in Abu Ghraib proved transformative for Joshua. After five months of interrogating of innocent people, schoolboys imam’s Joshua finally got the opportunity to interrogate a jihadist. The self proclaimed jihadist challenged Joshua that he did not really believe in the words of Jesus that love ones enemy and not seek revenge. Realising that he had lost all objectivity as an interrogator and was instead relating to the jihadist as a person Joshua ceased the interrogation. This encounter with the enemy, was also taking place alongside a deepen in Joshua’s spiritual life. During his time in Iraq he began reading Dorothy Day, Blessed John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). The thought of John Paul II was especially influencial on Joshua. The encounter with the jihadist lead Joshua to apply for conscientious objectors status. In 2005 he was honorable discharged as a conscientious objector and converted to Catholicism.

Joshua went on publish a book Letters from An Ghraib and authored two plays Returns and The Interrogation Room. He joined the board of Iraq Veterans against the War and became a prolific speaker and advocate for Peace while also pursuing postgraduate studies and received his MFA.

In late 2011Joshua feel seriously ill. He was diagnosed with rare cancer that he most likely got from working at the burn pits in Abu Ghraib. He spoke about his cancer as a small way to share in the the suffering of the Iraqi people for which he had a gratitude and sense of relief. During his this time he was awarded the 2012 Bishop Dingman Peace Award. Joshua passed onto his eternal reward in August 2012 aged 32. In October 2012 he was posthumously awarded the Saint Marcellus Award by Catholic Peace Fellowship along with his mother Kirsti Casteel.

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