War begins when we harden our hearts, and we harden them easily - in minor ways and then in quite serious, major ways, such as hatred and prejudice - whenever we feel uncomfortable. It's so sad, really, because our motivation in hardening our hearts is to find some kind of ease, some kind of freedom from the distress that we're feeling.
Someone once gave me a poem with a line in it that offers a good definition of peace: "Softening what is rigid in our hearts." We can talk about ending war and we can march for ending war, we can do everything in our power, but war is never going to end as long as our hearts are hardened against each other.
~ Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War
On May 10, 2014 a Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. Mr. Badawi has been held by authorities in Saudi Arabia since 2012. His crime? He is accused of insulting Islam and criticizing Saudi clerics on his liberal website. The website, Free Saudi Liberals, has since been shut down and his family has emigrated to Canada. According to a report by The Guardian, the first lashes were administered this past Friday in a public square in the city of Jeddah.
On January 3rd an estimated 2,000 people were massacred in Baga, Nigeria and surrounding villages by the Islamist group called Boko Haram, whose aim is to put in place a stricter form of Sharia law across Nigeria.
On January 7th, eleven people were killed by gunmen who raided the office of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. One additional person, a policeman, was killed during the terrorists' getaway. The terrorist suspects were allegedly angered by cartoon depictions of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi offering greetings with the words, "And, above all, health!" which had appeared on Charlie Hebdo's Twitter site.
Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I struggle for words to express the horror I felt when I read these accounts in the newspaper. The world becomes more violent with each passing day and I despair that we will ever be able to turn the tide. As hatred and anger grow, fear weaves its way through people of all religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds, silencing voices out of fear of retribution.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I agree with Pema Chödrön. We must soften what is rigid in our hearts to find peace. We must let go of past prejudices, past resentments, past hurt. It is only through opening our hearts and respecting those whose views differ from our own that we can begin to push back the hatred that grows exponentially each day. But here is the catch; how do we convince those who already hate, who already cause suffering, that love, acceptance, and compromise is the answer?
I don't know.
I sound idealistic, I know. And naive. But I am keeping my heart open. As Mother Teresa once said, "If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other."
The light within me recognizes the light within you. Namasté.