Are there any tears left? Have we become so numbed by the intolerance and violence pouring within and projected out of the Middle East these days that, just to protect ourselves from daily emotional shattering, we create ever-thicker barriers between the small shard of humanity we engage face-to-face and the much larger numbers of brothers and sisters we do not know?
What did I read this morning? At least 54 innocent people were killed by a series of bombs planted in a Shi’a-populated market area of Baghdad—everyone assumes Da’esh is culpable, in an effort to release pressure from or exact revenge for the Iraqi army’s campaign against it at Rutba and towns nearby. Any normal person would weep upon hearing such terrible news; but unless we knew one of the victims, we husband our tears….and try to think of something else.
Less violent but not much less disturbing, Iranian media reported today that after Faezeh Hashemi recently met Fariba Kamalabadi, a leader of Iran’s Baha’i community allowed out of prison on a short break, Faezeh’s own father, ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, publicly criticized his own daughter. Rafsanjani claimed, in what he has to know is a pure lie, that the “Baha’i sect was created by the colonialists” and so is “a deviant sect . . . that we disavow.” Others demanded that Faezeh be jailed for even talking with “heretics”, who are often accused of being spies on the absurd grounds that the Baha’i center is in Haifa and who are denied all civil rights.
Just two news items……but we could find twenty more just from yesterday or the day before—reported from what is left of Syria, Yemen, Libya….—to turn our hearts to stone. And it is behavior like this that causes some people, in the West and increasingly in the Muslim world, to become stony atheists, accusing religion of being the font of the intolerance that incites murder, terror, torture, and oppression. One can understand the frustration that leads to such a view, but atheism cannot solve these problems.