Coming under attack.

I grew up in Pakistan.  I suppose many of you who read this know that.  Some of you who read this may have even been there with me (and might question the term ‘grew up’, but we’ll set that aside for a moment).

So when I read this Tweet a couple of days ago:

it was a heart-stopping moment. And some of you will have shared that same feeling when you first heard snippets of news.  Was it going to be somewhere I knew?  Were people I knew and loved going to be caught up in this?  Was this, again, going to rival the levels of pain and turmoil I’d previously experienced following other terrorist attacks in the homeland of my childhood?  Well, the answer to the first two questions was no – I know Peshawar, and have visited more than once, but the school wasn’t one I’d ever heard of and, to the best of my knowledge, no-one I know was directly involved.  Yet while the initial fear subsided, and there was a sense of relief, still my heart aches for a land I love.  What I’m going through is not so much a tsunami of emotion (I’ve been there before), this time is more like simply treading water in an expansive sea, shrouded in darkness.  It’s wearying, when a country you love is constantly under attack.  And yes, it is constant.  The Western media don’t portray it all the time – it simply doesn’t interest enough people a sufficient amount to make it newsworthy.

It’s easy, of course, to simply leap to the same conclusions – that this act was the work of monsters attacking a school out of a desire to quash education.  Or that it was a meaningless, barbaric, heartless act.  But I wonder if that’s an overly simplistic view.  I wonder if that’s just the temptation of the West to distance themselves (ourselves…) from it all.

One thing I’ve read more than once is this idea that children should be able to feel safe in school.  They shouldn’t feel at risk from attack.  And of course I agree with that.  But what about the children of the Taliban, who are bombed in their own homes?  Shouldn’t they also feel safe there?  Some have been reporting that the Taliban have done this as revenge for the loss of their own children.  And while we might not applaud revenge, we generally understand it.

I’ve heard comments about ‘innocent children’, but what about the children of terrorists?  Are they somehow less innocent?  Is the child of a murderer guilty of murder?  The child of a philanderer guilty of sexual immorality?  The child of a rapist?  The child of a thief?  I know I’m on thin ice, here, but when a house is destroyed and the family of a terrorist is wiped out, we talk about collateral damage.  When a drone strike drifts into a wedding celebration, or a ‘targeted’ attack turns out to be not quite so targeted, we excuse it.

What’s more, one of the reasons these kids were killed in their school is because they’re our allies.  They probably didn’t ask to align themselves with the West.  But they’re aligned with the Pakistan military, and the Pakistan military has aligned itself, at least to a large extent, with the West.  When we ask countries on the front line to take sides with us, this is the kind of thing it can lead to.  Of course, mercifully, it’s rarely on anything like this scale.

I’m not on the side of terrorists, but I am on the side of peace.  And peace has got to involve more than one side.  Watching what’s going on in Pakistan is like watching a family I love tearing itself to pieces.  It hurts.  And I wish I could be part of the solution.  I’ll be praying, and I’d ask you to do the same.

Flip, I don’t know.  Head’s full of thoughts.  Feel free to come to my rescue here.  Or just shout at me.  Please bear in mind that this is only one aspect of what I’m thinking.

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6 Responses to Coming under attack.

  1. nickparish says:

    Part of my issue with this whole situation is that if we pretend we could never understand it, we never will…
    And here’s a (UK) newspaper article that outlines the disparity in numbers…

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    Nick – thanks for putting up this Guardian article. Its title explains why people on the ground out here think that there must be “hidden hands” behind this -peshawar attack and other such ‘incidents- horrifically inhumane, utterly despicable violent behavior. When 99% of our passing through crowded bazaars, riding public transport or sitting in offices out here is filled with naught but pure hospitable behaviour: we can not understand from where/whom this zombie-cyborg action originates. The western world’s must understand that until people like Blair, Bush, Cheney & Rumsfield (to name the biggies) are not hauled before the Int’l Criminal Court, a great majority will not risk stepping out and taking a stand. But then with articles like this –
    one begins to wonder just who is doing what, with whose money, and for what reason?

  3. Susanna says:

    Nick–great post:) I, too, grew up in Pakistan and I lived there as an adult a couple of times, and I, too, feel very conflicted whenever I hear of unnecessary killing in that beloved place. Mostly, at first, I just feel numb. I see and hear the story being told but my brain does not want to absorb the pain of it, and I am just bereft of feeling. Then I begin to feel anger, a burning anger and my brain says “SOMEBODY–DO SOMETHING!! Do something to stop people from even deciding to participate in such a heinous act of violence.” And then I feel the pain. Pain, as you say, from a country being torn apart. It feels like my body is being torn apart. I try to think logically about why people are willing to kill both themselves and other people. It truly is so senseless. But it is too complex to come out with a simple answer. All I have been able to think these past few days is “This happens because people do not respect human life, either their own or that of others.” There is only one answer to that: we need to find a way to educate people to respect LIFE. Only when individuals have a sense of self worth will they let go of the desire to destroy life. And, as we are at Christmas-time, when we celebrate (at least some of us do) the arrival on earth of God as man, I have realized yet again that only when we know God, the Creator of Life, can we respect our own life and that of every human on earth. And I, too, realize that my pain is for ALL those innocent people whose lives are destroyed for meaningless reasons by acts of both “terror” and of “legitimate war,” which is what we in the west use to justify the killing we do in places like Pakistan and its neighbors. May God truly have mercy on this world, and may those of us who can bring the hope of life with God to everyone around us.

  4. Susanna Rasmussen Brown says:

    Sorry, Nick, didn’t get my whole name on here so you know who it is!

  5. nomadlib says:

    Nick, I honestly don’t think that you are correct in saying that the school attack was in part because of Pakistan being a U.S. ally. From what I have read, the Pakistan Taliban says the attack was in response to the Pakistan government’s campaign against them, and because I never learned much Urdu during my years at MCS, I can’t reproduce the name of the campaign here, I read it in the article that Ed Brown posted on the FB page of MCS. I suppose you could argue that the Pakistan government started their campaign in response to U. S. prodding, but I am doubtful of that, I don’t think the government is any happier with the Pak Taliban than Americans are, and doesn’t need outside prodding to try to stop their agenda.

    I agree that the death of the children of terrorists is as bad as the death of the children in that school, because children are children, though all are sinful. However, parents must take responsibility for their actions and realize that their children will suffer the consequences of many of their actions. If a man decides to go to war against the government, he has to realize that his family is going to suffer also, it is called counting the cost. When a Pakistani Muslim decides to follow Jesus, if he is married, he knows that his wife and children are going to be impacted. The same for those who join terrorist groups. We get more outraged at the death of the school children because we expect soldiers to get killed in attacks, not their children. There is nothing in serving in the military in your own country, on your own home base, that should make you a target for attack, let alone your wife and children!

    And that is what Americans are responding to, I think. That feeling that these kids’ fathers had not made any choices that should lead to such attacks in a reasonable world. And that’s why we don’t seem as upset about the deaths of the families of terrorists. They made choices that led to their families becoming targets, whether they properly counted the cost or not. Soldiers are valid targets when they are on a mission, especially in another country. When they choose to go against their own government, they make themselves targets even at home, and their families likewise. That’s part of the horror and waste of war.

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