A Dearth Of Humanity?

The Times Online last Sunday carried a story about Ishaq Khan, a 12 year-old schoolboy from Kohat, located in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. He was given 50 rupees to carry a plastic bag into a crowded area between several shops and leave it. Ishaq was excited to be offered 50 rupees ($0.62) to perform as task as simple as this. His family “barely survives on the money his father earns from house-painting jobs.” Ishaq dropped the bag at the appointed site but when he was 20 steps away, the bag exploded. The blast shattered his foot, left 3 people dead and 23 injured.

When he learnt that three people had been killed and 23 injured he was horrified. “I never imagined it was a bomb,” he said, his eyes filling with tears. “I move bags for people all day.”

The doctors at the hospital say that the heel on his left foot is completely crushed and they are not sure if he will be able to walk again. His back was hit with shrapnel from the bomb, but his family “has no money for painkillers”, so he is likely recuperating in enormous amounts of pain.

Stories like this are becoming more and more common in Pakistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Islamic radicals are demonstrating that they no longer care about the rules of society (which we knew already) and that they are willing to exploit and endanger the most vulnerable of our societies to accomplish their “noble” aims. I am reminded of the incident on January 2, 2009 where two mentally-handicapped Iraqi women were strapped with explosives and sent into a crowded market in Baghdad. The devices were detonated remotely, killing the two women, 65 people, and injuring at least 150 others.

When I read stories like this I am shocked. And then I am ruefully aware of my shock and its inappropriateness. As much as I want to scratch my head in amazement at the heartless actions of evil people around the world, I should know better. The Lord reminds us in the book of the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). I know this passage. I understand the fallen depravity of man and the sinfulness of my own flesh. So why does this wickedness surprise me?

I believe that it is a reflection of our Creator that a part of me recoils with horror when I read stories like these. Some of the most sensitive beings around us are children. A child can often sense when someone is troubled or sad without being told so. They seem to be innately tuned to be intuitively empathetic towards people around them. This argues that we are indeed created in the image of our Maker. We were created by a loving and caring God and since we are created in His image, it follows that we too retain some vestige of his empathetic love (albeit in a flawed and sporadic variety that we choose to mute more and more frequently as we age). We know, without having to think about it or talk to anyone else, that it is evil to use an innocent child or a disabled person for evil. We do subscribe to a universal morality and our reactions to stories like these remind us of the fact very quickly.

The warning of Jesus regarding corrupting influences directed towards children, recorded in Mark 9:42 and elsewhere, is particularly relevant here, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” Methinks these cowards who hide behind school-children and coerce handicapped women to do their murderous work are busily earning their very own millstone. Thankfully we have a Savior who is perfect Justice. Marana tha!

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