Grieving over innocent victims — Malala and others

October 17th, 2012 at 7:00 am

Pakistan and the world are reeling this week from the horror of a young teenager, Malala Yousufzai, being shot in the head and neck outside of her school.

The Taliban has taken credit. Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper says it has been told by a spokesman for the Taliban that the girl was targeted for spreading “anti-Taliban and ‘secular’ thoughts among the youth of the area.”

What are her “secular” thoughts? NPR’s Philip Reeves said, “Malala is a national figure. She lives in Swat Valley and was there several years ago when the Taliban took control and began burning down girls’ schools. The Pakistani army rolled in, in 2009, to retake the area. Malala wrote an anonymous diary, broadcast on the BBC, about life under the Taliban. She advocated education for girls, and defied the militants’ ban on this by secretly going to school with her books hidden in her clothes. Her bravery was recognized last year when she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.”

Malala has been taken to a hospital in the United Kingdom. BBC News reported Tuesday that the medical director of the hospital where Malala is being treated has said doctors are “impressed with her strength and resilience.”

Malala needs our prayers.

This tragedy, as often happens, is bringing people together. Reeves reported Oct. 15 that, “Every now and then, something happens in Pakistan that really strikes a nerve. The shooting of Malala Yousafzai is widely seen as one such moment. Pakistanis held prayers across the land.” They also protested the shooting. “Even little kids are rallying to Malala’s cause,” Reeves said.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, said, “This is an atrocity that has shaken Pakistan. . . . You know, I’ve been watching the response in Pakistan, which is unanimous in Pakistan — spontaneous and unanimous in condemning what happened. And I think behind this sentiment is a sense that this cannot be allowed to go on.”

Our American ethical sensibilities join with Pakistani ethical sensibilities on this issue. This simply is a great wrong.

But this is not all of the story. While Pakistanis condemn the Taliban violence, some are asking what the difference is between this act of terrorism and the U.S. drone attacks in their country. There is the same result from both — innocent lives are being lost.

We American Christians are confronted by this reality, as well. We do not like to think of our drone attacks as taking innocent lives. While we kill “bad guys,” we also apparently are killing “good guys,” as well. Because of our views regarding the sanctity of life, we cannot easily dismiss such circumstances.

War is terrible and messy. It presents difficult realities for those of us who love others as ourselves.

Christian “just war” principles sets forth that “every effort must be made to protect noncombatants from harm,” said Van Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church in Comanche, in a column on just war last year in the Baptist Standard. That is a good word to remember.

U.S. drone attacks have been very helpful in our war on terrorism, but we view such national policies through the “eyes” of faith in Christ. And, as with other matters, the realities of life confront us in our faith, and we often are discomforted.

We grieve over Malala and pray for her full recovery. Likewise, we grieve over all of the innocents who are harmed in war and pray for an end to the fighting.

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War and Faith

War powerfully shapes a person’s understanding of the world, including one’s faith. World War II created in many people a veneration of the United States that caused love of country to sometimes override love of God or to conflate the two into one love. The Vietnam War then brought about a mindset of distrust, and since love of God and country had often been melded the two could be dismissed together by some.

It is not surprising that war shapes understandings of faith, but it is surprising that faith does not more often shape understandings of war.

The other day I ran across an article written by Charles Colson in July 2001 shortly after the release of the movie, “Pearl Harbor.” Colson told a story of a young man who wanted vengeance on the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor and how we was able to exact that revenge as a bombardier in Doolittle’s famous raid.

But that was only the beginning of the story. That young man, Jacob DeShazer, became a POW in Japan and asked for a Bible. Ten days into his study, DeShazer asked Christ to forgive his sins. He remembered, “suddenly … when I looked at the enemy officers and guards …, I realized that … if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. … My bitter hatred … changed to loving pity.” Remembering Christ’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” DeShazer asked God to forgive his torturers, too.

That is an example of faith shaping one’s conception of war, and it was expressed by someone deeply impacted by and involved in war. The story continues and illustrates the power of the gospel to change lives. It can be read at

It is interesting that just two months after Colson’s column, the United States was attacked again. Like World War II, it brought a revival of national and religious spirit—and the two together. I do not recall many Christian voices calling for love of our enemies, but some did.

Of course, individuals and nations are different. The United States needed to take action to break up the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but there was a great temptation for individual Christians to beat the drums of war as if our national enemies were some alien race and not fellow children of God.

Terrorism and war should produce more sadness than anger among Christians for those tragedies are a reminder of how much the people of this world need Christ.

Colson said that when World War II ended, Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the raid on Pearl Harbor, returned to his family farm near Osaka. Later, stepping off a train in Tokyo, he was given a copy of DeShazer’s pamphlet about his experience. Fuchida started reading the Bible. And despite his Shinto heritage, he accepted Christ as his Savior.

Two opposing warriors: Both loved by God. Both forgiven. Both united in Christ.

A prayer: Dear God, help us to see our world through your eyes and not our own. Help us to love all people, not just the people who are like us or who fly the same flag. Help us to be more like Jesus and love those whom others see as enemies.

– Ferrell


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