Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blessings And Oceans Of Hope

I heard the story from NPR's Julie McCarthy about a Pakistani Christian woman facing the death penalty for blasphemy, and some things occurred to me. First, there is irony here. The law under which she was prosecuted was implemented by military dictator Gen. Zia in 1980 as a cynical ploy to cement his rule. Isn't it wonderful that it is taken seriously by so many now?

Second, I wondered how I, as a First World Christian, should react, and my initial thoughts took me to the Sermon on the Mount. I understand her family is terrified, the Pakistani mobs seem intent on killing not just her, but the whole family. Yet, there is something for which I am thankful here. A small group of Christians in an overwhelmingly Muslim country are surely a witness to the tenacity of faith, particularly when charges of blasphemy become easy to level in even the most casual interchanges. I have no desire to see this woman die, or her family to have their lives disrupted. All the same, she is being reviled to the point of death for nothing more than her faith, and Jesus called such persons blessed, so I can do no less, even as I hope against hope that her life is spared.

Finally, I considered her "crime", offering water and food to other workers, who cursed her because she was Christian, claiming it made her offer "unclean" (I had no idea Islam had such strictures), and remembered a passage from Chris Hedges' War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. From pp. 51-52, this story concerns the Sorak family, a Bosnian Serb family, during the 1992 war in their city of Gorazde. Their two sons were killed, and the wife of one of their sons, Zoran, gave birth to a child in the midst of the fighting between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.
The mother was unable to nurse the child. The city was being shelled continuously. There were severe food shortages. Infants, like thi inggirm and elderly, were dying in droves. The family gave the baby tea for five days, but she began to fade. . . .

Fejzic, meanwhile, was keeping his cow in a field on the eastsern edge of Gorazde, milking it at night to avoid being hit by Serbian snipers.

"On the fifth day, just before dawn, we heard someone at the door," said Rosa Sorak. "It was Fadil Fedjzic in his black rubber boots. He handed up half a litre of milk. He came the next morning, and the morning after that, and after that. Other families on the street began to insult him. They told him to give his milk to Muslims, to let the Chetnik children die. He never said a word. He refused our money. He came for 442 days, until my daughter-in-law and granddaughter left Gorazde for Serbia."
Hedges concludes this story writing: "Here was the power of love. What this illiterate farmer did would color the life of another human being, who might never meet him, long after he was gone. In this act lay an ocean of hope."

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