by Joe Shea
American reporter correspondent
April 2, 2011
KORAN-BURNING: WHO'S TO BLAME FOR THE DEATHS?
BRADENTON, Fla., April 2, 2011 -- President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have been proved right in their outspoken effort to get a Florida pastor not to burn a pile of Korans at his church last September.
What we didn't know was that on March 20, at his church in Gainesville, Fla., the pastor put the Koran "on trial" and apparently "convicted" and "sentenced" it to immolation. At the pastor's diorection, someone shooting video of the holy book of Islam on fire sent it via streaming video around the world to Pakistan last month, where a riot erupted but no deaths were reported.
Late this week, when the video reached Afghanistan, riots egged on by Taliban militants turned deadly as protestors rushed a U.N. compound, killing four aid workers, and another nine were killed in the associated gun battles. Today, that scene was repeated in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where nine people demonstrators died when police opened fire on them.
Who or what, if anyone, is to blame for these deaths? Did YouTube have any complicity, since it allowed the video to be seen and copied around the world? Was the existence of the Internet, that enabled YouTube to exist, to blame? Is it the exploitation of the content by the Taliban that was responsible?
Or does the blame for 21 deaths lie squarely on the shoulder of the Florida pastor and his congregation, who collectively allowed it to happen? Were those held the cameras and streamed live video from the Koran-burning at a fire pit in the church ultimately responsible for the video's deadly consequences out in the real world?
Or was the Bible the culprit?
What the Florida pastor may have failed to consider was that the Bible, the holy book of Christianity, has itself been at the center of violence and death around the world for a very long time.
Obviously, it was the fatal interpretation of its contents that long ago spurred the Crusaders to journey to the Middle East and kill or convert as many Muslims as they could. Can the Bible be blamed? Its now-discredited account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, allegedly due to the Jews' failure to recognize the messiah, played some role in the Holocaust. It spurred on the torturers of the Spanish Inquisition. Millions have died fighting for and against it over the course of humanity's bloody history. Perhaps just as many died in the bloody march of Buddhism from the south of what is now India to the northern path that took it to the Far East. The Koran, in the same context, is also written in blood.
Buddhism says that actions and reactions, cause and effect, are karma that exists in an endless sea like intermingled drops of water that can never be untangled. There is no telling where an action or reaction originated, they say. I should add that the school of Nichiren Shoshu that I once studied says the karma of an individual can be "cut" by invocation of the "myo," the essence of life as contained in the Lotus Sutra, regardless of where it began - but that's distinctly a minority view.
I guess you'd have to say that enmity among and between religions is the cause of many wars and many deaths. The cause of life has never been so prioritized - I believe that the life force itself is the very presence of God, and death its very absence. Of course, no one gives a crap what I believe. There are wars to fight, heads to be decapitated, people to be hung and stoned and beaten and shot; ask anyone: That's what counts.
Blame? Guilt? You could fill the Gators' stadium in Gainesville with ordinary people who believe pastor Terry Jones is a damned fool, and I guess in his case that might help. Of course, the denunciations could become so angry that the townsfolk might arm themselves with pitchforks (if they have them anymore) and go burn his church down.
That he was wrong, and that the person who uploaded the video was malicious, is beyond doubt. But death ripples out from many places in this world; it is life that seems constrained.
Why don't people believe in the life God gave us? Even Jesus said, I am the Way and the Life. He must have been overreaching, or we have missed the entire message.
Joe Shea is a churchgoing Catholic.