The conflict in Lebanon and Israel has been both interesting to watch as well as horrifying. It has been interesting to watch because of the direction it has taken. The Israelis have made a point of hunting down Hizbollah in southern Lebanon and elsewhere in Lebanon, disregarding for the time being what passes for Lebanese sovereignty. At the same time Hizbollah has escalated its attacks on Israeli cities in acts clearly guided by profound hatred and intolerance. Hopefully this conflict will come to an end sooner rather than later for the sake of the people caught between the need for security and this radical extremism we were so shockingly introduced to through events such as the World Trade Center bombing and 9/11.
What is perhaps more frightening is that this conflict is just the latest in a trend of extremist Islamic terrorism in the world. We are perhaps past a point where nations would readily go to war on a massive scale and at a point where nations find themselves working to defeat an enemy that doesn’t fear its own demise and fights for something far stronger than the desire for territory: ideology. I wonder where this trend will take us. In the fight against terrorism, will we one day find ourselves living in heavily regulated and militarised societies geared at the fight against terror? Will these attacks escalate even further to nuclear attacks or more aggressive biological or chemical attacks? Will we ever know peace in our lifetimes? Sadly we do not live in a world where everyone respects each other’s beliefs and cultures as being their own and equal in stature to their own. In this way our modern expressions of tolerance and religious and cultural freedoms in our constitutions and laws are often wishful thinking. They are expressions of the world as we would have it, not as it is and while they are excellent ideals to aspire to, we need to see it manifested.
I was reading a post this morning on a friend‘s blog about a Buddhist teacher’s work in Thailand during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. It was a time when simply wearing the robes of a Buddhist monk was a death sentence. Here is what Rita said in her post:
But as I listened to Kornfield speak about his teacher, I slowly became inspired and hopeful again. Kornfield tells a story of living with Ghosananda at a refugee camp of about 50,000 people. Displaced and hungry, many of them having lost most of their families. Wives without husbands. Children without their parents. Entire generations wiped out. The camp was run by the UN. However, villagers and Pol Pot’s minions were all housed there together. Despite the UN presence, Pot’s soldiers made it known that whomever practiced Buddhism would be executed after the UN left. Hearing that, Ghosananda asked the UN if he could build a Buddhist Temple on the grounds. He was given permission so he erected a bamboo roof and floor.
Despite the threat of death, 20,000 people came to his first teaching. Kornfield describes the refugees sitting quietly, in anticipation of what Ghosananda would do. Ghosananda first began with basic chants used to open up ceremonies. For many, this was the first time in years they had heard such chants. And then, looking upon people who had undergone such great suffering, Ghosananda began to chant, “Hatred never ceases by hatred. But by love alone is healed.” He chanted it over and over. Soon the rest of the camp took up this chant. Kornfield describes thousands of people crying. He says it is as if Ghosananda had touched the ocean of great suffering, and through that darkness, remembered the truth of that universal law. “Hatred never ceases by hatred. But by love alone is healed”. Always we must forgive. Always we must choose peace. Always we must go with love. For that truth transcends even the greatest suffering.
That story humbles me. Always I cry when I hear it. The courage. The bravery. The inspiration. The hope. I cry for us all, wondering where is Ghosananda’s counterpoint in the Middle East? Surely there are such voices. There has to be.
I believe Rita expresses the feelings of many in her post. I just hope these sentiments are more than wishful thinking.