One aspect of everyday life that I generally actively avoid is the news. Last week, while standing in the lobby of the La Quinta Inn & Suites on Sand Canyon in Irvine, the news reached out and grabbed me. I heard something about Jordan. I lived in Amman Jordan for a year and a half, and I freaking love that country – the people, the food, the hospitality, everything. I love the King. I love the history and the pain. I love it all. So, when I heard that IS (ISIS, ISIL) was trying to ransom the hotel bomber from 2005 by threatening the life of a Jordanian pilot, my ears tuned in. I successfully avoided the outcome of the situation until yesterday my friend Becky, who still lives in Jordan, posted something from World Vision about the need for restraint in response to the killing of said pilot.
Today, reluctantly, I decided to get on CNN.com and see what all had transpired over the last week or so. I saw that the pilot, Moath al-Kasasbeh, had been burned alive in a cage by IS. This was gut-wrenching. I heard about King Abdullah II’s vow to avenge his death. This was also gut-wrenching. I read that the Jordanian public became blood-thirsty for revenge, swearing their loyalty to the King. Gut. Wrench. Then, I read that the Jordanian government just executed the woman responsible for the hotel bombing 10 years ago in response to the death of al-Kasasbeh.
I am completely saddened by the ruthless killing of Moath al-Kasasbeh by Islamic radicals. It’s horrible. It’s unprecedented. And it’s terrifying, even more so I’m sure for those of my friends in Jordan who are literally south and west of Iraq and Syria. I am even more saddened by King Abdullah II’s decision to execute a terrorist in response. What is the difference?
Was one killing terror and the other justice?
Even worse, Jordan upped it’s commitment to executing airstrikes on IS strongholds in Syria. In response to the death of one man, Jordan is trying to eliminate many. Is the death of one man worth the lives of thousands in response? Al-Kasasbeh’s family thinks so. King Abdullah II thinks so. All of Jordan thinks so. Most of America thinks so. In what sense is this justice?
I could at least understand if the law of lex taleonis was followed: You killed one of ours, so we killed one of yours. An eye for an eye. But, is it worth taking a bastion of peace in the Middle East (Jordan) to war for the sake of one?
In high school, I listened to Blenderhead (you probably didn’t). In one of their songs, they scream, “Hate breeds hate breeds hate breeds hate breeds hate” over and over again.
Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, “You can murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder”.
Derek Webb sings, “Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication. It’s like telling someone murder is wrong, and then showing them by way of execution”.
I cannot expect that the world will listen to these prophetic words. I cannot expect that my Muslim friends will understand the radically ridiculous notion that we are to “Love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us”. But I can be equally saddened about the murder of Moath al-Kasasbeh by a terrorist group and the murder of Sajida al-Rishawi and three other terrorists by the Jordanian government.
Neither is justifiable according to my understanding of the way the world works. Vengeance is never a solution. Vengeance increases hatred, increases death, and continues to keep this world in a pattern of retaliation and murder and war that will never end.
The only solution is forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy…actually, it’s usually the most difficult thing for any of us to do when we’ve been hurt or slighted. But forgiveness is the only action that can diffuse a situation, can bring reconciliation, and can stop the cycle of violence.
We may all intuitively know this, but we rarely act on it. But it’s the only hope we have.
Blessed are the peacemakers.