Yes, it happened again, almost a week ago now. But it’s happened before, even during our brief history in this city. Three years ago, during Diwali (October 29, 2005), three bombs rocked Delhi, causing 62 deaths and over 200 injuries. We had just moved here.
This past Saturday (September 13, 2008), five bombs claimed the lives of 25 and caused injury to over 100. As in the previous incident, the bombs were planted in some of the most prominent markets in Delhi and they were detonated during peak shopping hours.
We didn’t know anyone personally who was killed or injured. But this is our city, our home. We love Delhi, and we have chosen to identify with the people of this place. When something like this happens, we are called to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn.
We were safe at home when it happened. We had planned to go out for dinner with some friends, but our plans changed when we heard the news. We lost out on dinner, but others of course lost far more. In the Times of India we read about Simran, a five-year old girl who was out shopping with her family that night. She and her mother survived the blast, but Simran lost her father, her grandfather and her auntie.
I never want to forget how tragedies like this affect the lives of real people. It could have been my family. I have a five-year old daughter. We’ve been to these places where the blasts occurred. It’s close to home. It’s real.
The next morning, our family gathered for worship in our living room, as is our habit. Two guests joined us: one from Canada and one from Punjab. We sang songs of worship and read from the Scriptures. We also paused in silence to remember the tragedy and then we took turns to pray for the situation. We believe that God not only heard our prayers and is answering them, but that he also feels the pain of this mess.
I waited a few days to write this response, to give some time for reflection and conversation, but I’m still as sad as I was six days ago. And I’m disappointed too, especially by the response of some of my friends.
As I walked in the park with one friend on Monday morning, he explained to me why Delhi, and this nation, faces these problems. It’s the Muslims, he said. They are all poor, uneducated and desperate. And they hate India.
I could hardly believe my ears. I told my friend that he was wrong, but he stood his ground. I tried to reason with him. I admitted that some Muslims are causing problems, but I insisted that there are those among every religion that cause these kinds of problems. I reminded my friend about other problems in India with other causes. I spoke out against hatred, mistrust and fear.
I walked away from the park second-guessing myself, wondering about my role here in India as a foreigner. What do I know about India’s problems? What can I change?
I believe in love. I believe in the power of forgiveness And I believe that peace is possible, even in Delhi.
My beliefs are based on my understanding of God, which I derive primarily from the Bible. On Monday morning, I read a passage from the Book of Isaiah that gave me hope. In my understanding it has nothing to do with the political agenda of the nation of Israel today, but everything to do with God’s heart for peace between nations and his desire to use us as peacemakers.
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up swords against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:3-4).
There is conflict in India between peoples, and it includes all of us, all religions, all castes, and all classes. But there is also a way of peace that is accessible to us all. Will we find it?
Next week, on Tuesday (September 23) there is an Interfaith Prayer Meeting at the India Islamic Cultural Center. I will be in attendance along with Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other Christians. I’m not sure what to expect, or even what to hope for. But it’s one thing I can do.
On October 4th, there will be a public dialogue at the YMCA in Nizamuddin East that I have helped to coordinate. It is being called “Perspectives on Peacemaking: Muslims and Christians in Constructive Conversation.” It will feature a prominent Muslim leader named Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and a Mennonite scholar from the USA named David W. Shenk. It’s one way that I can contribute, though again, I’m not sure what to expect.
In the wake of these bombings, I have grieved. I have prayed with my family. I have spoken with my friends. I have written to others. I have tried to encourage those who are working for peace.
Certainly, I can do more. May God give me the grace to do just that. And may God have mercy on us all.