Three months ago, I was in New Zealand walking through streets and parks in Christchurch – a beautiful city that was devastated a few years back by an earthquake that toppled much of the city, including the two main cathedrals in town – one Anglican, one Catholic. I’m pretty sure I walked by the mosque where such terrible violence, and most of the deaths, occurred. I see from the map that it stood at the edge of a park I’d visited.
Stunned, not quite comprehending the enormity of this horror, I wrestle with a conclusion that I’ve come to hold ever more fiercely in recent years – the conclusion that divine presence is at the core of each of us, even those who behave heinously. I question once again my sense of the human condition.
I know we humans are wounded by the experience of separation that incarnation brings. I realize how vulnerable the individual human psyche is to the many ways in which we are hurt by each other and harmed by various social structures around us. How easy it is for us to be captured by fear and loathing and by ideologies that justify unthinkable cruelty. I ache.
I’m deciding not to jettison the conclusion I hold dear. I see the light of spirit shining through in the loving response of Christchurch’s mayor. I see that same spirit in the outpouring of love and support from around the world. At a more personal level, I see that spirit in the love that surrounds me.
So, how do I account for the atrocity in Christchurch?
I’ve come to experience the divine presence as powerful and persistent within us - and it’s very quiet. The light-source within can be covered and crusted over so completely in a human being that it cannot be seen or known from outside or inside. In some cases, like this one perhaps, human activity can only reflect darkness. No light seeps through.
At 4am this morning, I was awake. This poem came.
In a Christchurch mosque
Children, women, men
Gathered to pray –
And were preyed upon.
Martyred by night
Returned to the light
We pray for them now.
Hearts join as one.
All mosques –
All Christchurch now.
Harm to anyone, harms everyone.
May we re-member. We are one.
May peace begin within.
Final note: I’ll be traveling in South America for the next few weeks. Will post again upon my return. Namaste!