Herod is best known for slaughtering every male infant in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus. This event that happened centuries ago was re-enacted two days ago — not for the same reason but for something as cowardly! This horrific, extremely saddening and shameful act brings to my mind a barrage of questions. I am 16, I could have been there. What has my nation done and is continuing to do to bring upon itself such inhumane acts of terror? I come up with an answer, based on more thought-provoking and analytical questions.
What happens in the dynamics of a nation when wrongs start becoming right and a lack of ‘sense and sensibility’ is justified? From littering the streets, to parking and driving on the wrong side of the road, to breaking a ‘red signal’ to beating up a journalist, to burning alive human beings, to the cowardly and hellish act of killing at least 132 students are all signs of a nation that is lost. A nation that relies on and thinks that their saving will come from a ‘divine source’.
Religious violence and religious intolerance ravaged Europe in the 17th century. We are seeing it in the current times. We are faced with voices urging Christians not to tolerate Islam, Muslims not to tolerate the West and atheists not to tolerate religion. Should religion not engender dispositions and behaviours that benefit communities? Should religion not result in mitigating aggressive and destructive impulses and provide scaffolding for adherence to moral norms? What I see is that religiosity and intolerance seem to be going hand in hand in my country. Religiosity, sadly, is measured by overt and shallow expressions, for example the purdah, wearing the pants to a certain length and eating with the right hand, etc. Should religiosity not be measured by adherence to rules of humanity — by being compassionate, empathetic, tolerant, honest, truthful and trustworthy?
Alas, we do not realise that it is us, we, ourselves, who are wholly and solely responsible. Why have we let ourselves into this reign of terror? What are we doing individually, and then collectively, to counteract all this? Our strength and our weakness, our children, were attacked. How can we wait for tribunals to assess what has happened? Have we become so blind and insensitive not to understand what has happened? Do we need tribunals to assess the damage? The answer lies in us — in our actions. We do not need someone to bring about this change — we are the change! We have to change our mindset. What other catastrophe will we wait for to realise that we need to clean up our act? We don’t need social organisations, political parties, fancy promises to ensure a safe present and a safe future, we need to bring a change in ourselves. We need to start ‘being human’ again! We need to re-establish a sound moral system, not based on religion only, but based on humanity. Let’s leave behind this idea of ‘entitlement’ based on religion. Let’s live our lives in a disciplined way based on tenets of morality and ethics. Let’s clean up our act first. My brothers and sisters, your sacrifice in Peshawar will not be forgotten. Your sacrifice will pave the way for the nation’s re-alignment on the ‘right path’.
I am 16. I will not be pushed back by this state of affairs. My like-minded brothers and sisters will counteract this wave of barbarism and humanity at its lowest ebb by moving forward in the right direction, by re-aligning ourselves for it is my firm belief, and I quote, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” All great journeys begin with one small step.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2014.