Thought for the Day - Professor Mona Siddiqui - 26/07/2012

Over the last few days we have seen and been reminded of two massacres. Last weekend Norway remembered the first anniversary of the 77 victims of a bomb and gun shooting. During a brief television clip a young Norwegian man said that this tragedy hadn’t changed Norway’s commitment to an open and transparent society; if anything it had made Norway stronger. And in a wreath-laying ceremony at the bomb site, the Norwegian Prime Minister said the perpetrator Anders Breivik had failed in his declared goal of destroying Norway’s commitment to being an inclusive, multicultural society.

Earlier this week President Obama having visited with the survivors and families of the Colorado cinema killings promised that their strength and courage will long outlive the deeds of the shooter. He said, `“The perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the past couple of days,” “What will be remembered are the good people impacted by this tragedy.’ A moving message to a country in shock. Yet America has witnessed an upsurge in people rushing out to buy guns after this massacre, many convinced that they need guns for their own protection.
Different kinds of terror lead to different reactions but such tragic incidents also say something about how individuals and nations choose to react and remember. You can become more fearful and protective of your lifestyle and your loved ones or you come to terms with the fact that open and tolerant societies will always come with their own risks. These societies flourish because we put our trust in people, in authorities and in places. At the same time we accept we don’t always have the answers to senseless violence even as we remember the perpetrator and the victims. Trying to understand what the perpetrator has done is important for the sake of moving forward but even with the focus of the media for most of us, he is eventually reduced to little more than a name and a crime. It is the lives of his victims which live on in the hearts of their families and friends; their deaths don’t diminish them rather each of them will be remembered now by someone who knew them probably every single day. We don’t forget through death, we remember even more intensely as a way of keeping our loved ones near to us.

Losing someone you love to a violent death is tragic; it can turn you to God or it can turn you away from God. Religious faith itself while always reminding us to think of a life beyond this one, often struggles to provide any answers. But even though most of us aren’t affected by such events, it would be sad if it were felt that the only choice was between complacency and buying more guns. It is right that leaders use such events to reflect on who we are as individuals and nations but building a better tomorrow through a commitment to non-violence is a daily obligation on each of us.

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