What follows is the text of a letter that I sent to Mr. Scott Teare, Secretary General of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. The WOSM is the umbrella organization for 164 National Scout Organizations, including the Zofim in Israel and the Boy Scouts of America.
Dear Mr. Teare,
On October 13, 2015, Baha Alyan and an accomplice, boarded public bus number 78 in Jerusalem and committed a heinous terrorist attack. They brutally murdered three innocent civilians, and injured fifteen others. My beloved father, Richard Lakin, was among those murdered. Alyan and his accomplice shot my 76-year-old father in the head, and then, after he fell to the ground, stabbed him multiple times in the head, face, chest and stomach, severing most of his vital organs.
My father was a kind, gentle-hearted man who dedicated his life to education and promoting peaceful coexistence. Generations of scouts passed under his loving wing as principal of Hopewell Elementary School in Glastonbury, Connecticut, USA. In 2007 he published a book called “Teaching as an Act of Love” summarizing his life’s work and educational philosophy. The message of his book is that every child is a miracle that should be nurtured with love.
This week I was shocked to discover that the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA), which six months ago was accepted as a full member in the World Organization of the Scout Movement, is training its scout leaders to see a cold-blooded terrorist murderer as their role model. The PSA leadership training course that started last week is named the “Martyr – Leader Baha Alyan Course,” after the terrorist Alyan who murdered my father. Below is a screen shot of the PSA website showing a picture of the terrorist murderer Alyan in Palestinian Scouts uniform. On the website is an article about the course.
Upon further review, I learned that since becoming full members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, the Palestinian Scout Association leaders have been actively glorifying Alyan as a role model for Palestinian youth. Take for example a March 30, 2016 article in the Official Palestinian Authority daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on events marking the anniversary of the Jenin Scouts’ club founding. These included an activity to test Scouts’ blood type that was held at the club headquarters under the banner of “Scouting in your way, O [scout] leader Baha [Alyan].” From the article, as translated by Palestinian Media Watch: “The [scout] leader Jamal Fa’our said that the [scout] leader Martyr (Shahid) Baha Alyan is an example for every scout, and noted that Baha died as a Martyr while fulfilling his holy duty.”
I ask that you take steps to guarantee that the distinguished World Organization of the Scout Movement has no part in training future scout leaders to see terrorist murderers as role models, by immediately canceling the PSA’s membership. There is no greater impediment to peace than bringing up children to see murderers of innocent civilians as heroic role models. Should you allow the Palestinian Scout Association to keep its membership in the World Organization of the Scout Movement at the same time as they are presenting a murderer as a role model for future scout leaders, then your organization is effectively a co-sponsor of this terror promoting course.
As long as Palestinian leaders nurture a culture of hate, encouraging school children to go out and kill, more violence is inevitable. By encouraging hatred, they distance all of us from the love of and belief in peaceful coexistence for which my father stood.
My father’s book begins with a quote from William Penn: “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
My father lived by those words. I know all true Scouts live by those words. If only his murderers had as well.
Micah Lakin Avni