Reflections On Mumbai Attacks

nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 1228279893|%B %d

It has been surreal to watch the Mumbai attacks unfold from within India. For the most part, when something happens in India, we hear more a little more about it than our friends back home. But in this case, the rest of the world is watching very closely, and has about as much information as we do.

I have to wonder why this particular event is getting as much world attention as it is. Terrorism of one sort or another is not an uncommon thing in India. Every couple of weeks we hear about a blast in a market or on a train, or some kind of riot or tribal violence. These things usually don’t make it into US news. Other tragedies occur as well: temple stampedes and cyclones claim scores of lives, but these aren’t reported in the West. What about the other unjust deaths, the ones that no one reports? Scores of people die daily because they do not have access to clean water, sufficient food, or adequate health care.

A couple hundred Indians meet a tragic end every day, but most of the time the world hardly blinks. They are silent martyrs to the status quo; their deaths the result of iniquity and negligence that exist abstractly as consequences of global systems, outside of anyone’s direct responsibility. They are ignored in the name of progress, because progress means we will all one day be better off.

But this incident woke the world up at night with horrifying images and shrill reports. This incident has provoked special programming, high profile investigations, angry protests. This incident has strained international relationships, and may even (God forbid) move troops.

I agree that we should listen to and learn from these tragedies. But why this tragedy, when so many others are lost in the white noise of everyday life? What is so special about this particular affair? What was so special about these particular victims? Is it that this story resonates with our ongoing, uphill, international battle against terrorism? Is it that these targets were largely rich and cosmopolitan, rather than just impoverished Indians?

I have watched as grainy pictures of the surviving terrorist have flashed across International and Indian news channels. He is a young man, with neatly trimmed hair and a chiseled, determined expression in every frame.

I hear the story, rehashed over and over. I hear the expectant refrains of reporters, promising that the authorities are eagerly extracting information from this final gunman. I hear the overtones of anger and confusion and resolve against this kind of travesty, and I share these feelings.

But I feel something else as I look at his picture: something I didn’t expect to feel, something I didn’t feel before I came to India. I feel a touch of sympathy.

Here is a man about my age, from a part of the world I am partially acquainted with. I can visualize his criminal descent, however vaguely. I can imagine feelings of disenfranchisement and powerlessness, and the resulting frustration and anger. I can understand his instinct to lash out, to do something, to make a difference. I can imagine the seductive rhetoric of fanaticism; I can imagine the momentum of plotting to shake the world.

I too am human. Though the extremity of his feelings is foreign to me, the feelings themselves are not. If I had lived his life, I may very well have ended up in the same place. But I did not. I have the luxury of being a pacifist. I have the luxury of being creative rather than being violent. And I have the means to commit to that path and lead others in it.

By the grace of God, we are safe here. We know we are safe because we are in the hands of our Father, and we are listening to his voice and moving according to his will. There is no safer place in the world to be.

Of course, this is not a perfect guarantee of our physical safety, but there is no perfect guarantee of physical safety. But it is a guarantee of holistic safety—the safety of our bodies, minds, and souls; of our family, community, and church. As St. Paul reminds us, all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose. What happens to us is deeply meaningful to us and those around us, often in ways we can’t see or don’t understand. It is all a part of God’s unfolding plan.

We do not take this as a license to be stupid. But we do take it unction to fearlessly attempt those things that we prayerfully discern to be needful.

Right now, that means staying here.

India is a slightly dangerous place, and slightly more dangerous these days. Our experiences have been valuable and educational, but also frustrating, difficult, and disappointing. But we are not finished yet. Our pilgrimage is not yet over. May God give us the strength and the courage to act with integrity upon this knowledge.

Pray for us!

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