Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Do Not Ask For Whom the Bell Tolls..."

"We'll See in One Another, the Loving Image of You!"

The scene of the Toulouse school shooting.

"The believer is neither a pessimist nor an optimist. To be either is illusory. The believer sees reality not in a certain light but as it is, and believes only in G-d and G-d’s power towards all and over all that is seen." -- Dietrich Bonhoffer

Jackie Evancho's lyrics are haunting as we learn of the Toulouse shooter's al-Qaida connections. The 24 year-old, who had spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan, opened fire on a Jewish school killing three children and their Bible teacher, claiming he did it to "avenge Palestinian children [1.]." A photograph circulating the internet of a bloodied Palestinian child turns out to be in actuality one of a 2006 traffic accident [2.], yet it is being used to incite outrage, people against people.

I learned of a graphic designer in Israel who is attempting to help Israelis and Iranians "see" each other through photographs [3.] This is a good thing. I remember when my Mother was teaching at Howard Community College in 1979. One of her students was a young Iranian man and Mom became his friend in those dark and turbulent days.

But it is important to confront a stark reality here. In parts of the world children are being taught to become human bombs and are being forced to fight the wars of their elders. No amount of goodwill between Iranian people and Israelis will blunt the rantings of a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In our past Century, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was faced with the dilemma of what to do when confronted by unmitigated evil in the world. Hitler and the National Socialists did things that demanded a response.

If Boenhoeffer's life raises questions that are anything but simple, that is a healthy thing. His writings and sayings speak much of the relationships between people. He humbly considers how one should relate to enemies and thoughtfully navigates the realities of life with eyes wide open.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt compelled to join the resistance and was later executed. He left behind a legacy in his sermons and his writings. It is hard to find a single line of his to sum up his life and thoughts, but perhaps this one comes close:

"When we come to a clearer and more sober estimate of our own limitations and responsibilities, that makes it possible more genuinely to love our neighbor." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers

Rockets into Roses: Artist's Response to War


Think your daily commute is bad? Three Nepali girls cross a river on their way to school. Photo by Lokendra Achayara, ht/ Lee Baker.

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