Thursday, April 19, 2007


Josh Meltzer / AP: Virginia Tech students sing "Amazing Grace"
at the conclusion of a candle light vigil

What do you say to such random violence visited upon the innocent?

The world is swathed in violence, and we are all alike touched by it in varying measure, separated by distance and its intent. The massacre at Virginia Tech, for example, is as horrific as the relentless sectarian bloodshed in Iraq (not to mention Afghanistan and South Thailand) except that the former was perpetuated by inner turmoil, while the latter is an expression of political upheaval. Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui apparently described as ‘mentally ill’ lost in the battle against personal demons, while militants in Iraq have been dehumanized by a perverted battle for power.

In every case the evil that we see are symptomatic of fractured humanity, a condition that is best described in Scripture as sin.

Yet in every situation, killers do not turn bloodthirsty overnight. There is a gestation, a slow descent into madness, a building up of grievances and anger that boils over – as in the case of Mary Winkler who, overcome by years of unhappiness, shot her pastor husband, because her “ugly came out.” Pushed against the wall broken people break down.

It always bothers me that in every case of violence, the perpetrator always blames someone or something else, as if that somehow justifies everything. It’s the crusading infidels, the imperialistic westerners, and the illegal occupiers and desecrators of our holy land; in videotaped messages, shooter Cho blamed the affluent and unnamed others who made him do it, who “forced him into a corner.” All this oppression and suffering may be legitimate but do they excuse the taking of lives?

Nearer home, in the violent swirl of events few noticed the heart-wrenching story of Donni John Diun, an eleven-year old boy from Kinarut, Sabah. A victim of poverty, scorned by villagers and alienated by his peers, Donni was found hanged from the ceiling of his home on March 20, 2007. The suicide was apparently prompted by his desire to offer his heart to his ailing mother, and to spare her from having to feed one more mouth (Donni was third of six siblings). According to Donni’s mother, her son said he could no longer endure his condition nor cruel teasing by classmates who compared the porridge he brought from home daily to dog vomit. (More here , here, and here)

We were talking about this at home and Sook Ching mentioned that Donni could have railed against society, the bullies and the wealthy, and take it out on those who ridiculed his family. Instead, Donni hanged himself to end his misery.

Cho may have been depressed, thoughtlessly put down, maybe ostracized and rejected by a girl he liked. But he also had a “mean streak” as a former teacher noticed. Say what you like, but suicide bombing is not martyrdom, and violence the likes of Cho’s is not desperation but meanness, plain and evil. It is equally disturbing to read that his videotaped messages, received after his suicide, declared that he died "... like Jesus Christ to inspire generation of the weak and the defenceless people. ..."

As painful as it is, one must still come to terms with the face of evil, its consequences. The Bible does not say much about how evil came about (only what it does) but it has a lot to say about what Jesus came to do about it: he gave up his own life so no one else would have to lose theirs. Meanwhile we weep for the tragic loss of lives swept up in wars and random violence. We weep for the broken who surrender to hopelessness. We weep in our shared humanity. And cry out, “How long O God, how long?”

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