I do not have to be Indian to feel the sense of sorrow and unfathomable injustice as this month the world remembers the Mumbai attacks of a year ago. Many times we seem to have shaken our pitiful heads and said “never again” after a grand scale terror attack, but still man continues to kill man for an increasingly bizarre list of reasons. Political pressure, ignorance, social emasculation, brainwashing and drug addiction are amongst the culprits.
In the year since Mumbai, across the region we have seen murderers in Pakistan turn on their own people – with a recent gruesome blast in a Peshawar market killing over 100, mainly women and children, with no real explanation that I could fathom. Again, I do not have to be Pakistani to feel a sense of sorrow.
In today’s world, 75% of the victims of war are civilian – 100 years ago the figure was only 5%. But terrorists target civilians 100% of the time. In researching this article the internet was full to bursting with vicious stories of murder by the extreme; of Islam-bashing, or Hindu-bashing, or of just bashing. Of rancid-blogs and snide-blogs and outright-inciting-hatred blogs. Again, I didn’t know where to begin and felt overwhelmed by the never-ending challenge of inspiring people to value peace.
But casting an eye over my own list of blog postings you might not be surprised to learn that I am not happy with stopping there. I am not a quiet peacenik who lights candles and remembers how dreadful it all was (and laments the negative) - I am at my best when turning attention to dramatic and dynamic stories of peace. I found Dramatic Examples of Cooperation in shell-shocked Gaza recently. So whilst we remember Mumbai, let’s give support to all those in India who are actively working towards cohesion in some dramatic ways. This is for:
- The Kathat community in Rajasthan who consider themselves both Hindu and Muslim;
- Amit Dave a Reuters photographer who captured a moving image of Muslims releasing pigeons to symbolise peace during a rally in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad after the Mumbai attacks (not to miss out the Muslims at the Siliguri mosque in northeastern Indian who paid homage to the victims of the Mumbai attacks during a special prayer meeting last year);
- Swaraaj Chauhan, who describes in his Moderate Voices blog how in the not too distant past the highly cosmopolitan Mumbai (or Bombay) stood as a “shining example of the peaceful co-existence between Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Parsis or any other religions and sects” - and he sees no reason why this can’t happen again;
- mediator, Janet M Powers who’s book Kites over the Mango Tree is dedicated to restoring harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat;
- and tucked away on page 17 of my Google search (I am quite tenacious when I get going) I found the remarkable Kamlesh Pathak. Kamlesh is a Hindu woman who was moved by the plight of poor children in her home in Gwalior – so she runs a Madrassa. Probably the only Hindu female in the world to do so.
I am aware that the Mumbai attack had absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful peaceful religion that is Islam, and that the victims of the three-day-long terror were spread across faith groups and nationalities. However, since the vicious Hindu-Muslim rioting the city witnessed in the early 1990s, it is not surprising that many less-helpful commentators have cited the Mumbai event as an ugly attack by Muslims against Hindus. I hope that these examples of cross-cultural support above go some way to unpicking this. It took me just ten internet minutes to find handfuls of people who focus on peaceful solutions, not bitter retaliation - there are millions more out there - let’s give them a voice and support.
What happened in Mumbai last November was pure murder. Humankind killing humankind. To reduce this to a Hindu/Muslim – or even a Pakistan/India problem won’t help anything but our inclination to fathom the unfathomable. However, for Kamlesh and her friends, and for Mumbai and Peshawar let’s stop shaking our heads and take every opportunity to celebrate where cohesion exists.
Photo Credit: Flickr User Argenberg