Murdering Children

Many of you will have read this brief report of an attack on a school in north-eastern Nigeria, It is on page 5 of the BBC website, which in itself is a little shocking, but more shocking still is what the report reveals of human nature. That anyone could think it a good or Godly act to burn children alive as they slept, or to shoot them as they tried to escape, beggars belief. All this in the hope of creating an Islamic state in the north of  Nigeria!

Inevitably, those who think in terms of violence and hatred will let rip with the usual diatribes against Islam; and, if one is honest, one may find oneself secretly agreeing with some of their condemnations. But note what I said about what the violence reveals about human nature. When I was much younger, a Jewish friend of mine, who had survived Buchenwald, said, very seriously, that what we all needed to learn was that the concentration camps and the death camps were not about what Nazis could do to Jews, but what human beings could do to one another. In other words, before we start pinning violence on to an ideology, we have to look at the hearts of those who embrace the ideology. The violence is already there. The ideology merely provides an ‘excuse’.

I find that a sobering thought. This morning, as we pray for the children and teacher killed in Mamudo, for their families  and those who are in shock, let us also look at the violence in our own hearts and resolve to root it out. We have a choice. Let it be for life, not death.

Although this subject will stir up strong feelings, please remember that this blog is NOT the place to express hatred or violence. Comments that fail to abide by the standards of courtesy and mutual respect will not be tolerated.


17 thoughts on “Murdering Children”

  1. Your Jewish friend spoke much sense, no wonder her words have stayed with you. Thank you for this morning’s blog.

  2. My prayers will be for the children and families involved in this tragic act. You are right to remind us we should all treasure every life.

  3. To be fair to the BBC this was headline news on the website yesterday, which is when I read about it.

    I totally agree with your Jewish friends. it is not ideologies which kill, but people

    • Thank you for correcting me on that point. It didn’t take long to remove it from its place on the front page, where some other stories are still running, but I think its transitoriness does remind us how much news slips from the headlines if it is not of direct ‘interest’ to us in the west.

  4. I share your horror and also the sentiments that you are expressing – that this reveals what human beings are capable of. However, and this is one of the issues on which I’m pedantic (!), I would take issue with the suggestion that this is human nature. Human nature, at least in an Orthodox understanding, is good. What we see here – and in all of our hearts – is the corruption of human nature brought about by the fall. It is, in fact, a denial of human nature.

    Sorry to nitpick, but this is one of my pet pedantic peeves.

    • Careless writing on my part! Had I stuck to ‘human beings’ as in my quote from professor Meyer, you would not have had to point out my error. (I, too, believe that human nature is created good but we corrupt it.)

      • I thought you did, but it’s a mistake that is often made which I suppose is partly why I’m pedantic about it. And there do seem to be people who actually believe that.

        By the way, if you or any of your readers are interested, Sr Nonna Harrison makes this point far better than I could in the introduction to her book God’s Many-splendored Ima ge. Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation.

  5. Though a Catholic myself I lost Jewish relatives in the death camps. Notwithstanding that, I venture to take partial issue with the Buchenwald survivor quoted above. I’d have preferred him or her to say “it isn’t *just* Nazism” etc. We all carry the potential for darkness within us but we don’t all choose to slip its leash, even under the kind of duress which the Nazis practised.

  6. The news while horrifying lead me to pray for the killed and the killers. I find there are so many people to pray for, all the time…
    To have all nestle in my heart instead of turning my mind away from the horror of the act.
    Thank you for helping me see.

  7. Heartbreaking news and a beautiful post. There is also the spiritual dimension: why is the expression of evil in human beings so uneven, that more terrible things happen at one time and place, and not another? There are spiritual powers which are affecting places and people. Pray for wisdom from God to discern them and wrestle them back with the prayers of the Church.

    • I suspect that the ‘one time and place’ occurs when people feel free to be evil without fear of retribution (in this world).
      I also suspect many people will be wicked if they think they can get away with it.
      (I’m not opposing your view, Sister, just suggesting the corruption is a little more widely spread.)

  8. My prayers go with the souls of the dead children and their families.
    I also pray for the perpetrators that they might find a better way than violence.
    Violence does nothing to advance a cause, it usually turns morr reasonable people against it, especially after such an atrocity.

  9. It reminds me of a line inthe movie “Friendly Persuasion” about Quakers during the Civil War in America – a general came to the meeting house trying to convince them to join the Union army to fight against the South. When no one did the general shouted “don’t you know there’s a war going on out there?” To which a Quaker elder responded, “friend, beware the war in thy own heart.”

  10. Horrific news about these poor children and their teacher. I agree that we should pray for them and their families but also, like mentioned above, for the perpetrators who are lost and drowning in evil and violence.

  11. So desperately sad. And your line about the violence in our own hearts is true. Prayers of course for those harmed and for those who did the harming.

    I’ve never understood how people are able to harm one another, or to bear such violence in themselves to do such harm. And ideology is no excuse.

    More evidence of the darkness and evil which can flourish if God is ignored or put aside for purely human intentions.

  12. The greatest gift we have been given (other than life itself) is perhaps choice. People choose to do terrible things. The ideology provides a framework/excuse/method but human nature is to be able to choose. It is a great mystery that such a beautiful gift is also a terrible one because we can choose to do such horrible things to each other. We need to pray for the victims but also the hate filled people involved. Their lives must be very dark indeed.

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