As the bombers went into the hotels and churches in Sri Lanka and detonated their packages of death, what was in their minds? Was it hatred for the people who would be there? Was it hatred for what they believed, although that would not account for the hotels? Was it cultural hatred; the root cause of over thirty years of violence in Northern Ireland?
What did they hope to achieve? The death of some? Some kind of political movement? To spread fear through terror in order to keep ‘others’ quiet? Or, was it simply to kill those who are different?
Religious violence is present in all the major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism. I would argue that it is a parasite that does not belong to any of them but only feeds off them for violent ends. It is not inherent to the essence of any of these faiths. The vast majority of those who follow each of these world faiths are peace-loving, peace promoting people. Of course, Christianity is the one that concerns us and we have a violent past. Think Crusades, Inquisition, Klu-Klux Klan, petrol bombs and bullets, ‘For God and Ulster.’
Yet we find nothing of the parasite of religious violence in Jesus or His teaching. Turn the other cheek! Forgive seventy times seven. He healed the ear cut off by one of His disciples in Gethsemane. Like a Lamb to the slaughter He did not open His mouth through the torture and brutality of the cross. Instead, He said, ‘Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.’
I suspect that this month none of us will pull on a vest packed with explosives, or shoot into a crowd, or throw a petrol bomb. However, what seeds are allowed to grow in us? Seeds of hatred or the seeds of understanding, forgiveness and peace demonstrated by Jesus?
That’s worth an honest thought!
Yours in His name,