Has Conscience Died?

The downing last week of a Russian passenger jetliner over Sinai, the suicide bombings two days ago in Beirut, and the attacks in Paris yesterday inside packed theater, stadium, and restaurant, reinforces the idea that humanity is threatened by a reemergence of barbarism in its ugliest form. How could human beings be so cruel and not think of the sanctity of life bestowed on us by a just and loving Creator? How could they believe that they are mandated by God to force others in believing and acting in a specific manner? All I can say it is absolute spiritual ignorance! No true religion would sanction such a behavior. On the contrary, a true religion would be based on love, respect, and freedom of expression. Religions are means of spiritual enlightenment and liberation from the confines of materialism. Clearly, some human beings are so far distant from true spirituality and think nothing of the vast orphan children, widows, widowers, and grieving parents that they are leaving behind and the lives that they are turning upside-down, all because they happen to think and worship their Creator in a different way!

Many years ago, in the early to mid 1990’s, I wrote an essay on Violence and I believe that it is even more pertinent at this time and age than the day I wrote it. Here it is:

Where is the Thinking? Where is the Conscience? An Appeal to Humanity.

Many claim that man is superior to the other creatures roaming this Earth because of his ability to think. I have recently lost my belief in this claim. How can a man of what is almost the twenty-first century be considered superior when he is capable of taking the lives of twenty-nine people in Hebron in cold blood in the name of religion? Where is the thinking? Where is the conscience? What hurts more than anything else is that the victims were gunned down while praying to the same God worshipped by the assailant, and in the same city where the remains of Abraham, the father of all, are buried.

This tragedy is only one of thousands that have taken place in this century, and almost every one was committed in the name of religion. The massacres of Jews in Hebron in the 1920’s, the Der Yassin massacre, the Sabra and Chatila massacres are reminders that man does not always think. We cannot call the people who commit such atrocities “animals,” because that would be a great injustice to the animals of this world.

Where is the thinking? Where is the conscience? Just think of the magnitude of this last tragedy. Children are now deprived of one of the most meaningful experiences in life – the love and support of a father. What about the widows? How will they financially support their children? What about the parents? How does it feel to raise a child, only to see that child die violently?

When will it end? Ten people killed in a bomb blast at a church in Lebanon, fifty sprayed with machine-gun fire at a mosque in Hebron, sixty-five people blown to bits at a market in Bosnia – these are the headlines we see regularly, not to mention the events themselves shown on television worldwide. How many more such incidents can we expect?

If you are contemplating revenge, please stop and think for a minute. Violence will only lead to more violence. Even if you are able to get your revenge this time, the next time someone may get even with you. Besides, do you truly believe that God’s cause is served when innocent people are killed? Think of the orphans, widows, and grieving parents you will leave behind.

I often wonder what has happened to the human conscience. Did it die or become inactive? During the turmoil that swept India after Pakistan was declared an independent state, a Hindu asked Mahatma Gandhi if anything could be done to ease the Hindu’s conscience for killing a Muslim boy by mistake. Gandhi told him to adopt an orphaned Muslim boy and raise him as one of his own, with one exception: He must raise him as a Muslim, not as a Hindu.

If humanity is to survive, we must learn to fight religious hatred with tolerance and respect. No religion has an exclusive claim to the truth. Several paths lead to God. We should always remember this; otherwise, may God help us all.

Note: Since the day I wrote this essay a number of atrocities were committed all over the world. For the sake of fairness, I would like to mention the bombs that exploded on passenger buses in Israel, the car bomb that exploded in Saudi Arabia, and the Oklahoma City Bombing. My heart bleeds for the victims and their loved ones left behind. Some people critiqued this essay by saying it has left behind many un-mentioned atrocities. They are absolutely correct in their assessment. However, they have failed to recognize that this essay was written as a response to something that moved me. Call it a whim or a mood, or a snap-shot of my feeling at a certain time and space. It would be a mistake to keep on revising the essay to make it up-to-date and inclusive of all acts of violence. This is not to say that I have not been moved when other atrocities are committed.