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Q&A: Kidnapping survivor, author Amanda Lindhout to speak in Nelson

Lindhout will speak about recovery after 15 months of violent captivity in Somalia
Amanda Lindhout will speak at Find Your Divine in Nelson on June 6. Photo: Submitted

Amanda Lindhout has lived through hell.

In 2008, she and fellow journalist Nigel Brennan had just arrived in Somalia intending to cover the war in that country when they were kidnapped by Islamic militants.

For 15 months, Lindhout was repeatedly starved, shackled, tortured and sexually assaulted.

At the Nelson Star’s annual Find Your Divine event on June 6, Lindhout will talk about how she has turned the extreme and continuing trauma of that experience into a path to growth and healing.

After difficult and protracted negotiations, Lindhout and Brennan were freed in 2009 after their families paid a $600,000 ransom.

In 2011 Lindhout took part in a CBC news documentary that followed her return to Somalia to face the reality of what had happened to her. In 2014, she published a book, A House in the Sky, chronicling her captivity and her ensuing struggles with trauma.

The Nelson Star conducted a Q&A with Lindhout by email.

What is the central message you’ll be sharing at Find Your Divine?

The enormously challenging experience of being held captive for 460 days by a group of violent young men in Somalia was the biggest trauma of my life but also the catalyst that propelled me into a journey of growth, and healing. I believe that resilience is innate and that we all have this inner resource, no matter our backgrounds or history. I share many insights that I gained during those extreme circumstances that can help anyone access and harness their resilience.

With so much bad news about the world and people’s struggles with their own mental health, what kind of impact does your story have?

While most people will never go through the experience of being held hostage for a year and a half, everyone can relate to being overwhelmed by the challenges that inevitably show up in life. Over the last decade I’ve had the privilege of presenting keynotes in 26 countries, and I have learned that the themes that run throughout my own personal story — trauma, loss, despair, and grief — are universal. People want to understand how to navigate their most difficult days, and how to find meaning in pain and adversity. Hearing a real life story of transforming darkness into light can be an inspiration for healing.

What is the most common question you get at your speaking events?

I am always asked about forgiveness, and whether I have been able to find it for the men who took away my freedom. Forgiveness is very personal and means something different to each of us. For me, forgiveness is something I choose, not because they are deserving of it, but because holding onto my anger does not impact anyone but myself and keeps me imprisoned by their actions. It is a daily practice, and an intention that guides my life. When I let go of my anger, I am free.

How would you describe the response to your speeches?

Whether I’m presenting my keynote to the CEOs of the largest companies in the world or to survivors of violence at a women’s shelter, my intention is the same — to remind people of the strength and resilience of the human spirit to transform their worst experiences into opportunities for growth. It is an inspiring message that often evokes heartfelt emotion in audiences. I feel that the people who are in the audience are meant to be there, and there is always the potential for life changing healing to happen at every event.

Find Your Divine takes place at the Prestige Lakeside Resort on June 6 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are available at or at the Nelson Star office at 91 Baker St., second floor.


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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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