It seems that every day there is bad news from various countries in Africa. Today an Associated Press report in the Boston Globe told of the slaughter of over 100 Christian civilians at the hands of Muslim herders. There have been many incidents over the years of Christians dying at the hands of various Islamic groups. Like most people overwhelmed with bad news from everywhere, I was aware of the horror in Nigeria but it was shuffled in my brain with all the other terrible things happening. Once a few months ago, I opened the Globe to find the first four pages were filled with stories about Muslims killing each other or Christians. Information overload does not usually allow for deep understanding of any one issue. In no way am I an expert about Nigeria, but a chance encounter in Israel gave me pause to think.
In December of 2011, I was in Haifa with a friend. After visiting Prophet Elijah’s cave, we scrambled down the hill and took the cable car to the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery above the cave on Mount Carmel. There was a small crowd, mainly Africans, who appeared very devout and were moved greatly at being able to light candles and pray in the church. I remember it was a beautiful sunny blue sky day and a group of about 20 people were gathered after their prayers outside of the church. Vibrantly dressed, they were singing hymns joyously. We watched, smiling. “You Americans?” one woman shouted over to us. “We are!”. “We’re Nigerian” she shouted back when we asked where they were from. They got very excited about talking to Americans and we spent some time sharing stories about their pilgrimage and our travels. They were Christians who were fulfilling a dream to visit Israel. They had not yet been to Jerusalem and would be going the next day and were excited about walking the streets where Jesus walked. We took pictures of the group for them and watched them walk off to their waiting bus.
It was not long after the encounter at the Stella Maris that I read about a particularly horrible incident in Nigeria. A Christian church torched, lost lives and a claim of responsibility from an Islamic terror organization. What I pictured was those lovely devout people on Mount Carmel and I wondered if they lived somewhere safe or whether they were in danger. Now, I picture them when I read about incidents of Christian slaughter as I did this morning.
And then I wonder about the lack of anger about the slaughter of innocents, Christians and Muslims, at the hands of Islamic terrorists. I wonder about the thousands and thousands of Syrians trapped in a never ending loop of destruction. And there are so many more. And the world, by and large, says la di da, that’s the way it is.
No answers here. As the Presbyterian Church in the United States condemns Israel and others point fingers at Israel for protecting herself, I wonder where are they, these so-called voices of justice? Where are they when honor killings occur and innocent women are murdered for being women, even within the Palestinian Authority? Those who support “Palestinian rights” seem to not see that women and gay people are losing their rights. And they seem to have selective outrage. Some lives matter less or some hatreds might just matter more.
It would be easy to scan or ignore the continuing reports of Christians in danger in Nigeria. It would be easy to skip the international news completely and not think about the lives of people who are just more faces in danger in various spots over our spinning out of control planet. Maybe that’s how many felt as Europe turned into a slaughterhouse.
But that day on Mount Carmel shines for me. These smart, vibrant people touched me and reminded me that the holy land can be holy to many people if there is mutual respect and real piousness based on love and acceptance. I think about the picture we took for them with their bright clothing and smiles, and the waves goodbye as they walked off to their bus. I will hold that vision as one of hope for a country on the edge.