The parents of U.S. journalist James Wright Foley said Wednesday that they believe he had accepted his fate before ISIL militant beheaded him. As Catholic Christians, they testified of their son's courage and believe that "he was a martyr, a martyr for freedom."
"The way he died was horrific," Foley's father, John said, standing beside his wife outside their home in Rochester, New Hampshire, as they gave a press conference. "People can die in lots of different ways but this was the most horrific and it haunts me how much pain he was in and how cruel this method of execution is."
"It testified to his courage. He was courageous to the end and I think he accepted his situation and I think he accepted God's faith in him and his faith in God," the father said.
"How do you make sense of someone as good as Jim meeting such a fate?" his mother, Diane, asked. "He wanted to cover what was happening at the human level."
"Jim felt the world needed to know about suffering," she said. "He felt compelled...
"It reminds of us Jesus. Jesus was goodness, love - and Jim was becoming more and more that."
Foley had been on assignment in Syria prior to his kidnapping by armed gangs and disappearance in 2012. As a war correspondent, he had covered the conflicts and unrests in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya.
In 2011, Foley and his colleague went to Libya embedded with the rebels to confirm the facts surrounding Arab Spring, but they were attacked by Gaddafi forces. His fellow photojournalist, Anton Hammerl, was killed, and the rest were imprisoned. He was taken to a military detention center in Tripoli, where he was held for 44 days and was later released.
Despite being captured once, Foley ventured back into the war zone, Syria, hoping to further document the details of the conflict and human suffering. That was where he was last seen before the ISIS video of his beheading appeared on social media sites and news outlets this week.
The Foleys learned of their son's execution with news that the group ISIS had killed him and posted a video, but did not watch the gruesome footage.
After the video surfaced, the FBI had worked at verifying the video's authenticity on Tuesday, and confirmed that it is by Wednesday.
"We're very proud of him," Diane Foley said. "He was a courageous, fearless journalist, very compassionate American. I mean, the best of America.
"Jim was just innocent, and they knew it," she said of his ISIL captors. "They knew that Jim was just a symbol for our country."
At the end of the ISIS video, the terrorists threatened to kill another American journalist Steve Sotloff if U.S. continues to conduct airstrikes against them in Iraq.
President Obama said in a press conference that he had spoken with the Foleys on Wednesday morning, and expressed deep sorrow and "heartbreak" over Foley's tragic death at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).
"He was taken from us in an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world," he said. "The overwhelming majority of humanity were appalled by those who killed him."
In reaction, Obama stated that the United States government will be "vigilant" to protect its citizens and will be "relentless" to see that "justice is done."
"The people of Syria, that story that Jim Foley told, do not deserve to live under the shadow of tyranny or terrorists," he said. "They have our support in the pursuit of their future living in dignity."
The President also call on the government and people across Middle East for a "common effort to extract this cancer" to prevent its spread, a "clear rejection" of ISIS' "nihilistic ideologies."
Jim Foley stood for a "sense of hope and civility," said Obama. "A man who lived his work courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings, was liked, loved by friends, family."
"Today the American people will all say a prayer for all those who loved Jim. All of us feel the ach of his absence. All of us mourn his loss.
We're keeping our prayers for those other Americans who are separated from their families. We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim's memories. May God bless United States of America."
Prior to verifying the video purporting to be the beheading of James, his mother Diane posted a moving statement on Facebook page "Free James Foley":
"We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.
We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim."
Marquette University, where James received his history major degree in '96, also issued a statement, in which it said that he "had a heart for social justice and used his immense talents to tell the difficult stories in the hopes that they might make a difference in the world - a measure of his character for which we could not be prouder."
"Following his first capture in 2011, after he safely returned from Libya, James expressed in a letter to the Marquette community the power and strength he drew not only from his own prayer, but the prayers of his family and friends. As a community, we offer this prayer for peace."