There was a Holy man that lived two thousand years ago, his message—his whole message—was to love and forgive. At first, people were attracted to him, they followed him and sought his blessing (mainly to cure their infirmities not realizing it was their humanity to which he ministered) . . . but when earthly powers turned on him those followers chose to abandon him and support those in power, “We have no king but Caesar” . . . it was safer that way. We remember him in Holy Week because we are still hoping to learn the lessons he taught. Our very survival depends on it. My thoughts bounce between what Holy Week means and what the world displays to us—it says civilization is under threat.
Tracing the gradual refinement of how rulers treated their subjects can point to civilization’s evolution. In ancient times the Romans established special rights for those who were Roman citizens. In 1215 The Magna Carter asserted individual rights. The Americaan Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. And in 1948 the newly formed United Nations established the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. Its’ preamble asserts: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” As civilization advances, there is a notable improvement in the treatment of individuals within social order.
The Quran contains much wisdom, as do all Holy Books of all peoples (while each also contains some questionable statements). At this point in time radical groups of Islamic fundamentalists have usurped all good in the Quran to be overshadowed by the ‘Satanic Verses’ that call for jihad, which they interpret as the slaughter of any and all who do not adhere to their rigid laws. They are drunk on the heady powers of violence and destruction. Because this is done in the name of Islam, all Islamists have come under suspicion.
Many now state we are at war; but this is not a war like other wars we have known—those of territorial acquisition and material wealth—the primary objective of Jihadists is to enslave all and demand adherence to their perverted ideology thus destroying civilization as it now exists. They trade on fear and shock, they are not just fighting an armed and uniformed ‘enemy’ but are sneaking into any place where innocent people gather to celebrate or conduct business or simply to go about their daily lives, and with suicide bombers blow up—MURDER—as many as possible. The numbers dead and maimed measure their victory. They capture young girls and sell them into sex-slavery, they shoot children wanting to learn to read and write, they torture and behead those whom they perceive as wrongdoers.
We in America have the privilege of living in a free democratic country and tend to ignore ‘far-away’ problems. We must wake up and take note of how different this scourge is, how insidious and threatening it is to civilization as a whole. It is not the problem of a nation or region or continent, it is an attack upon universal human values. Civilization is in the cross-hairs of the jihadists! Look at the historical artifacts, cities and countries they have utterly destroyed causing millions to flee seeking safety, only to be met with hostility and closed borders. Good people turn against the helpless and destitute because there are too many, and thus do the jihadists chalk up another victory against civilization. Yes, they are a new kind of enemy.
A new strategy is needed for the new enemy; guns and bombs aren’t enough. I don’t have answers but believe a piece of that strategy needs to be the kind of total focus that WWII brought out; every person, young to old was ready and willing to do whatever they could. Where are the rallying calls that bring people to awareness of what the world is facing? Where are the musicians with ‘We Are The World’ concerts to raise money to help care for the refugees? Where are the Internet appeals for ‘adopting’ individual groups of fighters or refugees to supply their needs? Where are collection trucks in parking lots to gather blankets, dry goods and necessities for the millions stranded beside fenced and gated borders? Yes, it takes planning but when the will is resolute it can happen.
It may seem like subways and airports and 110 story buildings are the target, but make no mistake, the soul of freedom is the real target and that is of universal concern. This threat challenges us all to finally work together to defend human rights. Whether you are a Christian participating in the Holy Week rituals or a Jew celebrating Passover, or an eco-humanist appreciating the renewal that is Spring or a non-believer who lives by the laws that respect human rights, you recognize that there are ways of being that support and sustain life—we call that civilization. Then there are ways of being that are deadly and destructive to all that we value—that is the enemy we must face together.
Like it or not, we are one world, one tiny blue ball in the vast expansive universe and our future is threatened—we, us, all life on this planet depends on the choices we make. It is in our hands. May the hope that Spring, Easter, and Passover holds translate to shared concern for the one home we all share.