Monday’s post was partially inspired by a column I saw in the newspaper. Today’s post is, too. Same issue of the Kansas City Star, actually. But this one originated in The Times of Israel. Sorry to say, it has a pretty dark tone. I’m talking about freedom of religion.
But I’m also talking about more than that. The need for–and the attacks against–individuals’ freedom of religion is a worldwide issue. And 2019 was a challenging year for those who support the idea, because it was a pretty scary time to assemble for worship.
Fire in the holy places
I could approach this topic of attacks on places of worship from several directions. War, terrorism, hate crimes, shootings, bombings, arson (whether intentional or negligent) . . . Some took worshipers’ lives. Some “only” took historic buildings, holy books, or other sacred objects.
But all took peace of mind. All took traditions and cherished ways of being. And all scarred people’s lives.
Bullets, Bombs, and other Explosives
It isn’t only fire that’s been a threat to holy places this year. Even more destructive to the lives of worshipers is violent intent. People have fired hundreds of rounds, or lobbed bombs and grenades into sacred spaces. Into peaceful crowds of people just practicing their faith.
It’s hard for me to grapple with the depth of dysfunction and twisted logic that makes such an act seem rational to anyone. But the evidence that it can be rationalized was overwhelming this year.
Can’t we make it stop?
Are you exhausted by the carnage yet? We’ve only made it to the end of April 2019, with our latter set of photos above. There’s been lots of violence since then, but I think we all more than get the point.
There are dangerous people out there. They have guns, bombs, grenades, and flames–and they’re not afraid to use them. Don’t seem the least bit ashamed to attack innocent people in worship services, although any such act is shameful and cowardly. They don’t care if a place has historic significance, or if it means something to others, although that attitude is invariably brutish and self-serving. Nothing within themselves seems to hold them back, and no security system will stop them all.
But we can and must do better than this.
We must support broader access to mental health care and social services–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it can help defuse the human hatred that sets off all-too-literal bombs. Keep pushing back till commonsense curbs put access to deadly weapons of mass destruction out of unauthorized reach. Strive for greater educational and economic opportunity for all, since we know that inequity breeds resentment and hatred. Stay alert for problems festering in our midst, and fearlessly call them out.
Freedom of religion isn’t only an American concept. It’s a basic universal human right (see Article 18). If we don’t uphold and defend it as a right for all, then it is secure for none of us.
Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the wisdom from Thomas Jefferson. I am indebted to NBC News and Natalie Obregon for the photo of St. Mary Baptist Church in Louisiana; to Jewish Telegraphic Agency for the MPR/Dan Kraker photo of the burned remains of Adas Israel Congregation‘s synagogue; and to Imran Khan, via The Times of India for the photo from the temple in Kumb. I’m grateful for the quote about fear and fire by boxing coach Cus D’Amato, from Authentic Traveling with Andrew Scott.
Many thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Associated Press, via Times of Israel and via Al Jazeera, for the photos of aftermaths from the two Philippine bombings. I’m also grateful to Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA for the photo from New Zealand, and to the AP and Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of India, for the photo from inside the sanctuary of St. Sebastian’s. Thanks also to AP and Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel, for the photo from Poway, CA.