I woke up on Saturday morning to two bits of news.
First, someone launched a grenade toward the front of of a mall on the outskirts of Jakarta. It was in a mostly Muslim section of the city. Everywhere is. No one was killed or injured. The attackers will likely never be caught and no one claimed responsibility. This sort of thing happens not infrequently. They’re very good at identifying what happened, but rather slow on the whodunnits.
Then there was Paris which, as near as I can tell, erupted around the same local time as the local grenade.
During the morning it was interesting to watch the sides form up. Prayers came while I was in the shower. Speculation while I cooked breakfast. Blame came with the morning coffee. Blame Obama. Blame Bush. Blame the refugees. Blame ISIS. Blame Muslims the world over. One post seemed to advocate the nuclear annihilation of an entire religion. I know ther is fear and anger, but this seemed rather extreme.
I learned those expressing compassion toward refugees were called Libtards by some. What a difficult place one must be in to come up with such a term. This has rattled around on my head all week.
Later that morning, Mrs. SAM volunteered me to participate in a conversation club whereupon I make small talk with total strangers in an effort to improve their English language skills. This is penance for a sin I’m not yet aware of.
Nonetheless, I participated and there I found myself in a circle of vibrant people. A Lutheran, a Catholic, a Hindu and three Muslims chatting about the Talking Heads, Jane Austen, restaurant order mix ups where Muslims are served pork by accident and what we planned to do with our lives. No one proselytized. No one threatened. At the end, a Muslim boy was exchanging numbers with the Catholic girl. If I had to choose which person or people to annihilate to save the rest of us I would have a difficult time.
Thinking back over the last two months, I’ve seen the following:
I’ve written in the past of the call to prayer 5 times per day. A solitary human voice over a mediocre PA system is often a beautiful thing. It doesn’t call me to prayer, but it does cause me to pause for a second and remember where I am, and maybe that’s what prayer is at a basic level.
In Manila, some 90% Catholic, there was a large sized chapel anchoring the local mall. During prime shopping hours, it’s pews were full with those seeking a quick mass. The buses are emblazoned with scripture and air brushed Icons.
In downtown Bangkok, the Buddhist Erwan shrine was bombed several months ago killing 22. We stopped by two months later. The place was spic and span. The main golden statue was so burnished it was difficult to look at directly. Aside from the guards, you wouldn’t know there was a bombing there. I don’t know the draw, but sitting and watching you could see people walking by touching their hearts and saying a quick prayer in reverence. Even those high up on the subway cars took pause rolling by.
Inside the shrine, those more in need of spiritual nourishment can stand in line and pay some money and kneel before the shrine while musicians and Thai singers stand behind you and chant a prayer over you. One by one they come. Kneeling and rising, singing and dancing.
In Samoa, they’re predominantly Christian of several denominations, Mormon, Catholic, Assembly of God. Early one morning, I walked along the seawall and came upon a single guitarist and 2 dozen singers belting out great hymns of praise, keeping time with the waves as the sun rose. I climbed the seawall to find seat and have a listen. I thought it may be choir practice. In the water, I saw three church officials ministering to three adult worshippers. I thought perhaps it was a baptism, but Christianity is so ensconced here I find it hard to believe that babies aren’t plopped right out into a baptismal font. The folks in the water were crying. Perhaps it was some sort of healing ceremony.
Which brings me back to Paris and my new circle of non-native English speakers. I think we all want the same thing. We say it in all sorts of different ways and sing it in lots of different tunes, but the message is all the same. We want things to be the best that they can. We don’t want to suffer. We pray for money, for comforts, for that little red-headed girl to notice us or for protection from the bogeyman. Some may even pray for the bogeymen for they indeed must be suffering.
Jeez, what a libtard!