The Gods of war and peace
Religion has brought us together, but has also been responsible for the bloodiest times in history. Where does this stem from, and is there any hope?
I open my eyes slowly. My head hurts. I can’t see anything. There’s smoke everywhere. Black smoke, like the bukhoor in the mosque. Grey smoke just like the agarbatti my mother used to light. White, fragrant smoke, like the candles of the church on the hill. I look closer. I don’t recognize this place immediately. The walls are broken, rubble and ash everywhere. And there’s blood. Lots of blood. It’s everywhere. On my hands. On my face. I’m breathing it in. I taste it. Muslim blood. Hindu blood. Christian blood. It tastes the same. That’s strange. I remember something, an old man in a robe. Blood, he says, Muslim blood. The most precious, most sacred, sweeter than the nectar of the heavens. I laugh out loud. The room is full of people. They hear me laugh, but they don’t join in. Their cold eyes are set on me. Men. Women. Children. I feel pain, sweet beautiful pain. I have carried out the holy task. My sacrifice will be remembered forever.
Blood gushes out of my body, eagerly swimming across the rubble, cleansing my land of the unworthy. I dip my finger in the pool of red, and place it on my tongue. It tastes exactly the same. I smile, and fall back as the darkness takes me into her arms.
This was the story of Irfaan. He was only 13 when he took 27 lives. His childhood was snatched from him, by the greedy clutches of the ‘devout’. It wasn’t just 28 that died that day. It was the innocence of millions. It was belief that died. It was our unity. Brother turned upon brother. What idea of religion do we practice, that snatches toys from a baby’s hands, and replaces them with guns? On whose hands does this blood lie?
Kneeling, hands joined, fingers intertwined, they prayed in chorus, as the clock struck 9:05, the silence in the air had erupted into screams. 21st April, 2019 – The day of celebration and welcoming of new life and happier days had turned into the death of humanity and resurrection of a continued story – The Good, The Bad and the Deadly.
Sri Lanka was left bewildered and broken, the songs of 3 churches were silenced, giving birth to the unanswered questions, challenging dialogues and ideologies- If in a war, enemies can sit together in peace to wish happiness upon the other and pray to their own respective gods, how and why is religion used as a tool to kill?
Let’s go back to where it all started. Since ancient times, mankind has worshiped and feared God. The oceans divided lands, divided humans, and thus our beliefs as well. And before we knew it, they turned into oceans of blood. Religion provides a safe space to communicate an established faith, and brings people from different walks of life together. The Quran, The Bible, The Shreemad Bhagavad Gita, The Guru Granth Sahib, and countless other books that exist give life to different stories of many gods. All these books teach us the way to a better life, to be kind and helpful, to be just and honest, but then again, perspectives and tongues is all it takes to walk down the dangerous path of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. As we evolved, so did our religion, devolving from devotion and goodness to distrust and hatred.
We are social creatures that crave to give life a purpose. For children that grow up on streets, with no identity of their own, it is easy to tell them their position in the chain of life and have them add to the demographic of violence. It’s the innocence of children like these that is sacrificed in order that selfish goals may be attained through massacre and bloodshed.
Leading to the devastating Easter Bombings were carried out by multiple suicide bombers belonging to the affluent and educated strata of the society. How do these groups coerce masses to forget all their morality and wield their weapons? These people take the lives of the pristine as if it were theirs to claim with nothing but apathetic eyes. According to them, their belief is imprinted in rock, to them anyone they murder is an enemy to their god and their theology is their protective blanket. They believe that sacrificing their sanctity is the key to ‘martyrdom’ in the afterlife, the ultimate reward and in turn the birth of religious extremists.
In Myanmar, Buddhist extremism sought the suppression of the Muslim community. Cases of rape, torture, arbitrary detention, and violence against the Rohingya are commonplace, and the government is supporting this inhumane exploitation. It goes without saying that religion itself isn’t the problem here – it is the miscommunication of the edicts of religion, twisted to conform to ulterior motives that is the problem.
Employment, economical upliftment, social awareness and education can be the saving graces of the world and if used right, the impact they could create could actually be tangential to the situation right now. When we say education we don’t just mean learning Shakespearean English or Quantum mechanics. If we limit our expertise to dates, alphabets and numbers, the paramount and influential topics are left unattended, religion and its effects being crucial. Leaving biased minds to carve the most frightening ideas from what is meant to unite even the most contrasting personalities continues to be dangerous now, as it has been in the past. The onus falls on the governments, on the leading authorities, and us as people to foster a kind and communicative dialogue that promotes peace and humanity. Allowing this cancerous growth to fester will only bring the world down on its knees as death paints the towns red. Religion in itself is an entire world, and it does not deserve to be used as a tool in crusades against our own brothers.
In Hinduism- they put a ‘tikka’ on their forehead, In Christianity – a sign which starts from the forehead, in Islam – they touch their forehead to the ground during prayers. In every religion, the aim is to cleanse our minds and to move towards spirituality to be better human beings than we were yesterday. Perhaps if we practiced religion right and looked beyond our shallow interpretations, it would be a small step, towards the greater good.
It’s a hot Sunday afternoon, and I was walking down my lane, the scent of hot samosas in the air. I see four boys playing on their cycles, throwing water on each other, shrieking as they douse each other. One carries a football in his hand, and a cross around his neck. One has a brand new cycle, and a spotless taqiyah on his head. The other two, brothers, have white chandan splattered across their foreheads. One trips over a stone. The other three burst out laughing. And then, they all offer their hands to help him up. It was then that I realized. Perhaps we can’t go back to how we started off. But there is still hope, hope for a better tomorrow.