There are moments in life when sadness descends beyond our usual register of pain, and we begin, but only begin, to feel the reality of Isaiah’s words throbbing with unexpected and personal disorienting anguish, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” The news from Peshawar is such a moment, slicing into our lives with savage disregard for our usual screening mechanisms, and exposing our hearts to the unassuageable suffering of those other people, who belong to our human family, whose times in history we share, and whose children have been massacred.
According to a Taliban statement this was a revenge attack on a school for children of the military, carried out by men whose own children and families were killed in the military action against militant militias in Pakistan. So it is claimed. Is that some kind of attempt at explanation? How do we follow the savage logic that offers such an inane and insane justification for murdering 132 children and 9 adults, numbers likely to rise further? The slaughter of the innocents, for whatever reason, is an evil born of fear, hate and despair. Fear of the enemy, hatred of those who are ‘other’, and despair of life itself – hence the calculated rage and essential evil of those whose greatest joy is the destruction of life in an obscene gesture of defiant despair.
As a Christian my tears flow from a heart unable at present to interpret itself. Baffled sadness, hard to acknowledge rage, hope confronting despair, desolation overwhelming any sense of consolation, streams of emotion and thought and prayer coalescing into a river of grief. I recall Paul’s use of Isaiah, when that same prophet looked on desolation and told it to God, “For your sake we face death all day long, we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered…” The killing of defenceless children by heavily armed parents of other dead children is as tragic now as ever or anywhere. Tonight, prayer seems such a feeble retort to such tragedy. But nevertheless. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself….we are ministers of reconciliation….Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.
So for those who have died, for bereaved parents, for a region in shock and anger and grief, I pray that were the earth is once more without form and void, and darkness is upon the face of the deep, may the Spirit of God move, and once more may God say, “Let there be light.” Kyrie eleison.
For those who plan and plot murder as the language of hate and fear translated into violence, who seek vengeance through the murder of children and unarmed teachers, I pray that minds and souls covered by such darkness upon the face of the deep, may be turned towards mercy and peace and the light of God in whom there is no darkness at all. Kyrie eleison.