Deeds That Heal and Deeds That Kill

A number of Syrian families have settled in Toledo, Ohio.  An NPR reporter went to visit one of them.  He found that when the family arrived, they discovered a furnished apartment and neighbors who volunteered to help them with their needs:  shopping, caring for the children and so on.  How ironic!  The family arrived from a refugee camp in Jordan facilitated by Hayas, a Jewish organization, and the apartment was furnished and the volunteering initiated by local Christians.  And the family is Muslim.

This is the nature of America.

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The Make A Wish Foundation has been granting the wishes of seriously ill children for 35 years.  They ask “If you could be anything, go anywhere, or meet anyone, what would you wish for?” Last year they granted over 14,000 of these wishes.

When I saw the “60 Minutes” article on this organization, I was impressed and elated to see so many people volunteering their time and money to meet the wishes of many sick children who would otherwise never have a chance to live their wish. This is the essence of a deed that heals.

This, too, is the nature of America.

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After the Second World War there were many trials of former members of the Nazi party and SS troops.  At one of the trials, three SS men were questioned about why they did what they did.  The first one said that he had orders and had to follow the orders.  The second said that if he didn’t follow the orders, his comrades would kill him.  The third one said that from his early childhood, he was taught that the Jews are the enemies of the German people, enemies of humanity, they are polluting German culture and exploiting Germany for their own purposes, that they were a lower race and they should be separated from the German population. And he said that this motivated him to do what he did without hesitation.

Something similar is happening in our generation.  Children in some parts of the Muslim world are taught that Israelis and the Jews who support them are threatening the rights of Palestinians by depriving them of their land.  A vivid example of this shows a preschool child with a knife in her hands saying that she would like to stab a Jew with a knife “because he stole our land.”  And the adult who is filming her praises her strength and says “God willing, my dear.”

This frightens me.  When the minds of children are poisoned like this, those who teach children to hate an entire people and to kill them in the name of their god should be charged with crimes against humanity. If we continue to allow this to happen, I fear for the future.  If hatred towards “the other” is the prevailing lesson taught to children, they are robbed of their childhoods, they are robbed of their futures, and then the entire future of humanity is uncertain.

Let us not be complacent. Let us keep ourselves informed and make everyone in our circles aware.  And let us all speak our wishes for peace at every opportunity.

This, too, is the nature of America.

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From poisonous language to poison gas

Daily attacks on civilians:

Pakistan: church bombings and mosques destroyed

Iraq: public gatherings, mosques, funeral processions, car bombings

Afghanistan: car bombings, assassinations, suicide bombings

Kenya: shopping mall

Nigeria: students attacked in their dormitory at night, 60 killed

Syria: bombings of civilians, women and children killed with poison gas, people maimed, homeless.  And all of this in  broad daylight.

The world: ???

All of the above is well known, but I wanted to know more about the history of poison gas. This blog is not the place to share all of my research, but the United Nations has a brief history of modern agreements on chemical weapons on their site, and if you search Google for “International agreements prohibiting the use of poison gas” you will find much more information for yourself.

Despite all of the international agreements in place, in the Middle East there is unfortunately a history of much use of poison gas. It was used in Yemen by Egypt in 1967, by Iraqis against the Iranians, Shiites and Kurds in the 1980-88 Iraq/Iran war, and now by Syria against its own people.

I wonder who these stockpiles of poison gas that were used so cavalierly against civilians were actually meant for? Were there consequences for the use of these weapons? If 188 of the 292 members of the United Nations agree that there should be no use of these weapons, why have there been no consequences?

Perhaps you, my readers, can help me answer these troubling questions.