Without Words


A friend died last week. He had had cancer which had metastasized. He had been ill for some time and the last thing I did for him was help him write a letter in English to a subscription account in the UK cancelling his newspapers. I was unable to go to his funeral, since I was away in Morocco at a wedding but hundreds of others did to mourn his passing and recall a life well lived. I was reminded of the timeless circles of our small lives which run inexorably, much as we might otherwise wish. And yet, so many others have suffered even worse. We imagine that war, death and destruction happens somewhere else and its bestial excesses sometimes leave us as detached observers, disbelievingly watching and hardly able to imagine that such things still happen in serene, well-ordered societies such as those we inhabit. Our women do not suffer rape and brutality as the survivors did when the Red Army entered Berlin in 1944,  we do not have to queue for water because infrastructures have been destroyed, our children do not have to learn how to protect themselves during an air-raid warning. Romans 8:28 is sometimes hard to hold on to especially in the light of unspeakable cruelty and pain which assails us all from time to time, either directly or, mercifully, only in the media. A bus full of kindergarten children was hit by a train in southern Egypt and nearly fifty  promising young lives were lost. Over 150 people were killed on both sides in the latest clash on the Gaza border, including six men who were accused of being ‘Israeli spies’, according to the UK’s ‘Daily Mail’. They were dragged through the streets of Gaza City and executed in front of a chanting mob. Witnesses said the six were taken to an intersection in the north of the city where they were summarily shot for providing intelligence that helped Israel pinpoint key figures in Hamas and Islamic Jihad who were subsequently targeted by their warplanes and eliminated. Gunmen chained the body of one of the alleged collaborators to a motorcycle and dragged it throughout the main streets of Gaza City as a warning to others. It is as if we have learned nothing since the fall of Troy when Hector’s body was dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. More than a little resonance of Blackshirt nastiness here; my sense of outrage is almost without words.

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