It is my privilege to work as the choral department accompanist for the local high school. The head of the department has chosen the theme “A Search for Peace” for the fall concert. As a part of the concert, the entire department – four choirs in total – will perform a massed choir number titled “Inscription of Hope.” The lyrics come from a poem that was etched on a wall in Germany by Jews who were hiding to escape the Nazis. The lyrics are powerful –
I believe in the sun Even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
Even when there’s no one there
And I believe in GOD
Even when HE is silent
I believe through every trial
There is always a way….
In this suffering
And hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter
To know someone’s there
But a voice rises
“Hold on my child
I’ll give you strength
I’ll give you hope
Just stay a little while”
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday
Z. Randall Stroope wrote the song and it is beautiful in its simplicity. The choral director’s inspiration for the concert theme was the current state of our world and what has been referred to as “The Summer of Terror”. He asked me to research the details regarding terrorist-type attacks – those motivated by extremist views – and give a synopsis of some of what has happened. As I began researching, I had to turn off my brain and simply look at facts, details, and numbers. To allow myself to think about what I was reading was just too much. As my day winds down, the details of what I read have come back to me and I won’t allow myself to emotionally detach this time. The truth is hideous but turning a blind eye will do nothing.
From the first of June through the end of August, there were at least 568 incidents in 59 countries around the world. These incidents resulted in a total of at least 4,652 deaths and even more injuries. The good news – and yes, there was good news – were the number of “lone wolf” incidents where no one was killed. An individual with extremist beliefs acting alone would attack another individual, couple, or small group because of something that offended the attackers religious sensibilities – mixed race couples, homosexuality, women who were not covering their faces, etc. In many of those instances the attacker was fought off by either their intended victim or law enforcement officials and no one was killed.
But some of the stories brought tears to my eyes and made me sick to my stomach –
A suicide bomber that investigators believe was between 12-14 years of age attacks a Kurdish wedding celebration, killing 54 and injuring 66.
Two different hotels where car bombings were followed by gunmen entering the building and taking hostages. Between these two attacks, 31 people were killed and 80 injured.
52 fisherman executed by Boko Haram.
Coordinated bomb attacks in a market in Baghdad, Iraq, left 342 dead and injured 246.
Most of us heard of the attack at an Orlando night club (49 killed, 53 injured) and the attack in Nice, France (86 killed, 303 injured).
And these are just the tip of the iceberg.
The world is a much scarier place than I remember it being when I was a child. In the name of “faith”, individuals or groups in 59 countries on every continent have committed heinous acts of violence. In some cases they were hoping to intimidate others into joining the violent cause. In other cases the motivation came from ethnic conflict. The difference in cause doesn’t change the facts.
4,652 dead. Most in the name of religion.
Now, more than ever, those who claim to be followers of Jesus MUST embrace the lesson that Jesus tried to convey to a teacher of the law. When the teacher asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus didn’t stop with just the greatest. He gave the man the top two –
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ there is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
My heart still hurts and I’ve shed a few tears after processing the information I read today. So much hatred, so much violence and the vast majority of it in the name of “religion” or “faith”. It’s time that those who claim the name of Christ focus on what Jesus himself called the two greatest commandments and start loving those around us. ALL of those around us. It’s the only hope we have.