Friday, July 25, 2014

The Hallmark of Evil

I remember back in the summer of 2001, when Taliban militants destroyed the tallest Buddah statue in the world.  I read the article about it in Time magazine, and said when I saw the photos of its destruction, "This is evil."   I remember thinking in my bones, this is evil. Destroying beauty, destroying what others consider sacred, destroying art, destroying anything which brings others hope and peace, is violent, is cruel, and is evil.

Today, I looked at the news feed and saw once gain, militants within ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) group first stopped people from praying at the shrine, then filled it with dynamite and destroyed it.  They blew up "Jonah's tomb"/the Muslim Shrine of Yunus so that according to witnesses, there is nothing left but dust. They even released a video but I won't post it.
But digging below the newsfeed which is oddly making the rounds, there lurks a thread about the video being six months old, manipulated and a piece of propaganda. Indeed, a quick search indicates there were reports back as old as 2013 --ancient in internet terms, about the destruction of this site.  Yet I found the films of the destruction touted on CNN, editorialized at the Washington Post, and on other sites today. 
So we are left with what happened and why is it important?   If ISIS destroyed a shrine for the purposes of destroying a shrine, (asserting rule), it is evil.  If they claim to have destroyed a shrine for the purposes of establishing themselves as powerful and promoting fear in those who might pray or practice a different faith, it is evil. The hallmark of evil is destruction, is violence, is the willful elimination of the sacred. Lies are also a hallmark of evil.   
The world is focused on the sensational of this story, the reporters tell you not to blink or you'll miss the destruction.   They mention the oddity of the story of Jonah because that's splashy.  But they are not asking the question "Why?" Perhaps it seems simply par for the course with the chaos that marks this week's news cycle.  But truth is found by asking questions rather than repeating whatever catches the ear and the eye. Why?  It is dangerous to ask why, because it then demands an action if we get an answer that indicates, here is an evil. We must act if we would not be complacent or complicit with evil.
Then I came across this story over at the Anchoress, I'd not read it, but I'd seen the headline, that the US government knew ahead of time of the plan by ISIS to overrun and chose to not respond to it.  There were reasons, but perhaps they should answer and rethink, why? Those caught in the crosshairs who have the misfortune of not subscribing to the radical form of Islam promoted by Isis, face the choice of conversion, paying a tax for being non-Muslim, or death..  Those who dare to speak up against this religious/ethnic purge in Iraq, might wind up like Professor Ali ‘Asali. 
So again, the destruction of the innocent, the creation of a state of permanent fear, and prospect of violence for speaking out against violence, looms.  And if we continue to watch with a detached spirit, one day, it will be asked of us.  Why?  If we recognize in these acts, the destruction of beauty, the assassination of dissent, the threatening of those who think differently, the displacement of residents who flee out of fear, why are we not doing something?  If we just watch, we will see a wild fire of evil consume more innocent, more beauty, more of what we value, hearth and home, peace, freedom and family.   And one day, we'll have to answer what we aren't asking now, why?
What we can do? 
1) Stay informed.  Amnesty International, BBC, and whatever other sites you deem credible.  But cross reference.  I liked this article over at Get Religion. 
2) Pray.  We perpetually underestimate in the way a child misunderstands space and time, the efficaciousness of prayer.  Best bet?  The Rosary.  Pray to the Queen of Peace, asking her to ask her son to grant his peace, to pour it out over the whole world, the way one might pour out water or rather what we're asking for, wine.   We are out of peace the way the people at the wedding feast of Cana were out of wine.  If you've never prayed the rosary, here are two favorite sites.  here if you want to do it quietly with meditations on the mysteries, and here if you want to pray with others.
3) Fast.  Jesus tells his apostles, there are some demons which can only be driven out with prayer and fasting.  We often think of Fasting as only a seasonal thing.  Rather, we should think of it as a necessary thing, something which helps dislodge the evil of this world, even if we know it not, just as exercising gives benefits we do not see, even if the number on the scale hasn't moved much.  (Sigh, now I have to fast and exercise).  It doesn't have to be an over the top thing, just offer something up, anything, but do it knowingly.
4) Give alms.  Give to a charity that either provides needed necessities to refugees from the violence or one which helps give sanctuary or which helps them leave.   While it is a dated list, the American Institute of Philanthropy rates the top charities capable of distributing aid to those in need. 
5) Speak out.  Name it.  Evil works best when people either turn away their gaze, or say nothing. 

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