Monday, September 23, 2013

International Peace Day Upended

September 21st was International Peace Day. Perhaps the founder of this day purposefully chose the Fall Equinox -  a day when light and dark are in balance, a detente.

Apparently, 4% of the world population are aware of International Peace Day, at least thinking about being peaceful if not being peaceful. As the origins of an action begin with a thought, maybe a smidgeon of people on this planet really did contemplate non-violence on that noble day.

Unfortunately, Somalian jihadists were not contemplating the meaning of International Peace Day when, on that very same date,  they massacred 70 plus non-Muslims: they actually checked religious affiliation before pulling the trigger, sparing those who could recite a seminal Islamic prayer. The killing field was an upscale mall in the Nairobi suburbs; innocents were gunned down in what now seems to be a copycat crime -  mass murder of civilians with AK47's in spots where daily life takes place. 

Apparently, the gunmen are part of the 96%.

Global citizens rightly look upon this act with horror; it was even the top headline in the New York Times. (Farewell, Wiener texting updates). After all, who can't relate to a leisurely trip to the shopping mall, particularly if you are an American consumer or the citizen of a country where those steel and concrete temples of materialism have taken root.

In another scenario, on International Peace Day a few years ago, the Taliban were approached and after some negotiation, agreed to let aid workers into areas of conflict, promising to stop the killing for that one day. The result - the humanitarians in the region were safe to travel to formerly off limit regions to dispense aid. The Taliban kept their word and thousands of children were vaccinated, with long term positive results.

The Afghani scenario is more puzzling to me than the Nairobi mall murders. It is impossible to truly understand the mindset of a person(s) capable of gunning down random humans as fast as possible for "an idea," but even more weird is that one could be a killer and say, OK, for one day I will let peace reign and then I will go back to slaughtering.

How is it possible for a Taliban fighter to grant humanitarian aid for one day in the spirit of International Peace Day but decide that it is only a good idea for 24 hours? Wouldn't one think that someone capable of this generosity would feel so good about it that they would extend that olive branch a little longer, and then a little longer, and then a little longer until peace was a lasting one?

Or perhaps it is an exercise in cruel power; man playing god and choosing who will live and who will die by his will and his will alone. In the case of the Somali jihadists who spared Muslims in the Nairobi mall, and the Taliban who granted peace for a day, apparently they thought Allah was granting them the power to make these choices.

For those who believe in life after death, or heaven and hell, perhaps there is some solace in knowing that all these killers most surely will go to hell. But for those who feel that every moment counts, may there be a groundswell of light, a tidal wave of good, that washes over the world as each one of us decides to throw our weight into 'compassion in action.'

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