I have previously written about my Indian friend getting married. At one point he considered moving the date of the wedding to the week of American Thanksgiving so a few more of his foreign friends could come join the celebration. I had earnestly hoped that he would do this. On my first visit to India, I visited Chennai and New Delhi, the next logical place for me to sightsee would have been Mumbai (Bombay), and either before or after Andrew's wedding I hoped to visit there.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I'm glad it didn't work out that way. I ended up going to the International Children's Education Conference. On Thursday morning in a Hong Kong hotel room, I turned on BBC to find that Mumbai was under attack. At the end of the nearly three day ordeal at least a few hundred were dead and at least that many people were injured.
I was shocked, but I wasn't surprised. On both of my visits to India, I had turned on the television and heard news of domestic terror attacks in locations that I didn't intend to go. The news only brought the type of mild anxiousness that a traveler in Chicago might have felt immediately after the Oklahoma City bombings.
This time, had I been in India, it would have been different. All of these attacks happened in tourist locations, famous restaurants, and train stations. Assuming I wasn't one of the casualties, I would have been paralyzed with fear, afraid to leave my hotel room and nervous about how to make my way home.
As I sat in Hong Kong, I wondered what the appropriate response should be to these attacks. Aside from the obvious answers of arresting the perpetrators and their accomplices, and holding the cowardly police officers accountable, I'm not sure.
I did recall one conversation that I had while in India about the subject of Muslim terrorists. He was a pastor from Bangalore, and before the wedding he stayed in my hotel room for a few hours to rest and freshen up. The television news was on and the coverage was about the latest bomb blast. The conversation drifted toward the news. In my sly American way, I attempted to direct this man to criticize the Muslim terrorists, advocate some sort of retribution, or at least throw out a few epitaphs. In Singapore, many people say negative things about Malays, I egged. In America, we get angry, vengeful country songs (think Toby Keith), I noted. "What do Indians say about these Muslim terrorsts?" I asked.
I would regret my words, if I hadn't learned so much from the pastor's response. This pastor wouldn't have any of it. He just didn't think that way. He is a pastor, and actively evangelizes Muslims and attempts to persuade them to ditch the Koran for the Bible and follow Jesus. But the Islamic Indian domestic terrorism, he said, had nothing to do with the theological beliefs. It had everything to do with economics.
The Muslim problem in India is two-fold. First, the Muslims are antagonistic toward the Hindu majority. The Muslim religion dictates that it deny the idolatry and most of the festivals in the country. In many Indian towns and cities, Muslims don't fit in and can't find jobs. They have trouble supporting their families. Second, the Muslims resent the Christians. The Christians are also a minority religion in India, but as a holdout from British colonialism, they control all of the best schools. A Muslim family may see their neighbors as economic equals until one day their neighbor converts to Christianity. Over a period of years, the converted Christian family learns better ways to live and has access to better educational opportunities. Ten years later, the Muslim family is still dirt poor, but the kids from the Christian family have grown and have good jobs. In return, the Muslim youth get angry and become a terrorists.
We do need better law enforcement, and people who violently break laws should be punished- severely. However, when we talk about long term solutions to terrorism, it shouldn't be about "huntin' down" people or waging any type of "war." We also don't need more sophisticated x-ray machines or spying aparatus. The long term solution to preventing terrorism is to address economic inequalities. But as a partaker in the American dominated global economic system, the most streamlined and sophisticated in all of human history, I see that we have a tough time sustaining and curating our own economic policy. I'm not sure how other people can be included or who will do it.
It may simply involve sacrifice. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all of your goods and give the money to the poor. On the international scene, America is the rich young ruler. Perhaps for our own safety we should heed the advice of Jesus and find some way to incorporate this into our economic policy.