Saturday, July 23, 2011

Killing innocents

No sooner had the cyber ink dried off the horrific story about Lieby Kletzky, then news came out of Norway of the stunningly gruesome and sadistic automatic weapon attack at a children's camp following the coordinated bombing of the prime minister's offices in downtown Oslo. Seven people were killed and 11 injured in the bomb blast, while latest reports state that at least 85 teenage children were killed at the camp, many of whom were the offspring of government officials. It staggers the imagination that anyone could ever justify killing helpless children for political purposes, but that's what the accused assassin seems to be boasting through his attorney. Eyewitnesses said that he arrived on the island shortly after news of the bomb blast circulated throughout the camp. Dressed in a police officer's uniform, he beckoned the youngsters to come to him and, once the unsuspecting victims approached him, opened fire on them. Some took to the nearby beach and ran into the water, trying to find a way to escape. Those who were not shot in the back were picked off while splashing in the water. Survivors claim that the "police officer" would call out to the children, suggesting he was there to help them. Once they came out from hiding, they were mowed down. Some who had been hit by automatic fire pretended to be dead; others used the bodies of other victims to shield them as they lay hoping for help. The death toll climbed so high because it took nearly an hour and a half for the real police to arrive by boat on the island. When they did swarm the island, Anders Behring Breivik surrendered peacefully to the authorities. Aside from the revised death toll of 93, the number of injured stands at 97. It is the worst attack on Norwegian soil since World War II and the worst ever perpetrated by a single gunman. According to news reports, Breivik confessed he acted alone and police are still checking to see if the evidence supports that claim. Sometime after the attacks were over, news reporters claim to have found a 1500 rambling "manifesto" detailing his political leanings as a conservative Christian and how he advocated against "Marxist diversity." The ruling Labor Party, which has been running a coalition government favorable toward liberal immigration, including Muslims, was apparently singled out by the gunman for their policies. Authorities were able to quickly verify he had ordered six tons of fertilizer that could have been used to manufacture a high yield bomb, but they were still questioning as to whether or not he had help in preparing the bomb that targeted offices in downtown Oslo. Norway is in mourning and everyone from the king and queen to the parents of victims are asking the unanswerable question: "why?" Why must the innocents pay the ultimate price for a misguided terrorist, who claims to take such outrageous acts in the name of religious philosophy. We've seen this time and time again in the Middle East where Jews and Arabs kill and maim the young. In Sudan we are seeing the politics of religion being utilized to justify the slow and systematic starvation of thousands of refugees who are caught up in the continuing civil war there between Muslim and Christians. Whether the victim is dispatched by a bullet to the back, a stabbing attack or withheld from proper food, the ending is the same. Only the speed of the onset of death is different. The thousands of dying children in Sudan can hardly utter the words to speak of their pain and there is little news coverage of this tragedy. The sudden cries of young shooting victims on Utoya Island or those injured in the Oslo bomb blast still ring out and are echoed in the news media, but for how long? But the persistent questions still remain. Why can someone whose religion values life so highly be so quick to extinguish it? Where is the breakdown between religious fervor and morality? What can we do to prevent another such incident? The next time this happens it may not be a single gunman, but many gunmen coordinated in a single attack strategy. The next time this happens it could be your sons or daughters or mine. If history has taught us anything, it is that man can be interminably cruel and can kill with little or no forethought. I pray this is the last such heinous act, but I know I am probably more hopeful than realistic. My prayers go out to the young innocent victims of violence who never asked to be involved in such horrors. They deserve a right to life, liberty and happiness. Unfortunately, as we have seen, they find out too soon they have nothing at all.

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