The sun is shining and the lake is calm. Thin clouds form in the sky. It’s a perfect summer day here at the cottage and yet my mind wanders to the story of Mukhtaran Mai that is running on the front page of this newspaper. I try to imagine what she is doing at this moment. Can she leave her home at all, or is she still being persecuted for trying to change her world? I picture her sitting in her back yard, the rain has just ended and the hot sun is drying everything quickly. She is listening to the birds as they sing and go about their busy lives. She is watching them and finding joy in the moment. She doesn’t know if the men who raped her will try to kill her tonight or tomorrow or the next day —she doesn’t know how much time she has to live. But does anyone? She takes care to get the most out of each small moment and treats them like precious gems.
I don’t think she knew that her plight would cause such huge international repercussions. I like to think that her strength and self-sacrifice taught others that one person can stand up for the truth and set the standard for the seeds of civility to grow. I hope that the people in her village see her strength as noble and her actions as worthwhile even though such vision requires knowledge that may not be available to them.
I wonder about the kind of men who raped Mai – about the kind of people who can murder and harm others, people bereft of morality, who lack the values that allow them to love and respect life. In causing such harm they destroy the values within themselves that it takes for love to grow. Values such as integrity, forgiveness and the ability to honour life itself, can’t survive where there is hatred, jealousy or the need for retribution.
I wonder how a soldier is able to keep their values from being destroyed? By telling themselves to follow orders some manage to survive the ordeal, but so many come back from war screwed up, unable to love or find happiness in their lives. I don’t think anyone who can honour life can justify killing. That’s the problem with war, religious or otherwise — honouring life itself is the way one shows respect for the creation of the god to which they bow their head. By killing they destroy the ability within them to honour life and I think that it is directly connected to their ability to love. Those fighting for al-Qaeda believe they are fighting a holy war and will reap their reward in heaven, but for many of them their values, and thus their ability to find happiness in life, is already destroyed. They are picked at a young age, chosen because they can obey, because they refrain from questioning, because they have suffered and want something better for themselves than life has handed them, because they are followers.
I had a dream last night that I wrote to the head of the United Nations, which wasn’t so odd because I often fire off emails to world leaders just to see if I can get something interesting back from them. But this time I wrote telling them that the answer to terrorism is education and what they ought to do is set up “United Nations Schools” in all “at risk” countries. Very similar to those countries that have mandatory army service, the youth from all the “at risk” countries would have to serve their time in United Nations Schools. They would be paid just as al-Qaeda pays their youth, but instead of radical religion, they would be educated in world history, human rights and freedoms, and taught about different cultures around the world. In my dream I received a reply that said the United Nations appreciated my suggestion and was going to have a vote on it sometime in the next 10 years…
I finished reading the latest Harry Potter and again it reminded me that love is stronger than evil, that no matter how many people die, no matter how much fear they live with, love will always survive. It seems the terror that the suicide bombers are trying to spread is bringing people closer together, making them think about love verses evil. It has made me think about the power of knowledge and how important it is that children everywhere get an education – evil sneaks in where empty minds are hungry.
I look at my eight-month old son as he wiggles across the floor. There are so many things we must teach him. To walk, to talk, to read, to value the world around him and the life he has. I will teach him to appreciate his own life enough that he values the lives of others. I wonder how to fortify him against the comforts and enticements that pure belief offers to its followers. I think that if he learns to trust in change as the only true thing in this world that is absolute, and to understand the importance of morality, then he’ll be able to see through the frauds that use religion to gain power over others. I aim to surround my son with love because in the end I believe it will make him strong enough to overcome any challenge life throws at him.