Among the victims was an eleven-year-old boy who was looking forward to new life as a student of Sidwell Friends, and to live in the suburbs of Washington, a home which may be about fifty miles south of Columbia. He simply went downstairs to the hotel in which he was staying to grab breakfast - and then all of a sudden, a huge blast. A terrorist detonated his bomb, and Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a brilliant mind whose dream it was to be a neuroscientist and work on Alzheimer’s disease, was gone. He was an only child. A beautiful life cut short by the bomb of a terrorist. The terrorists didn’t know him, nor did they care about him. All they cared about was their desire to inflict as much pain on the innocent.
Caroline Mahendran, a Sri Lankan Sunday School teacher at Zion Church which was also targeted by terrorists, shares about what happened: "Today was an Easter Sunday school at the Church, and we asked the children 'how many of you willing to die for Christ?' Everyone raised their hands. Minutes later, they came down to the main service, and the blast happened. Half of the children died on the spot." Just like Kieran, these are children the terrorists didn’t know, nor did they care about them. All they cared about was their desire to inflict as much pain as possible on the innocent.
Then there is Holch Povlsen of Denmark who lost three children, and Ben Nicholson of Britain who lost two children. Beautiful dreams cut short by a bomb of an assassin packed in a backpack. I can picture, in my mind’s eye, the victims carrying their backpacks to school, like my child and yours carry theirs to school, full of books and other school supplies from Mondays to Fridays. Only this time there were no books in those backpacks, but the assassins’ bombs. These terrorists didn’t know these children, nor did they care about them. All they cared about was their desire to inflict as much pain as possible on the innocent.
In all, three hundred and twenty-one (321) people - many of them children - died from this horrific attack. It was Easter morning. The sun was up, because the Son had been raised from the dead. New life sprang forth from the sharp sword and nails which he could not withstand. Christians all over the world were in a joyous mood, for he that was dead has been raised from the dead. The events leading to the crucifixion, the crucifixion itself, and the attacks in Sri Lanka has given each of us some reason to think about the horrors that continually inflicts our world.
To juxtapose this heinous act on the children and adults at hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on the one hand, and the atrocity visited on the innocent Servant on Good Friday on the other, leaves me with deep sadness - a kind of sadness which is too much to comprehend because it is not only about children but our actions towards the other. These are the moments when you want to hold your children a little closer and offer them one more squeeze before they retire to bed. The human ability and penchant to inflict harm on the other - even the innocent, irrespective of how justified we may be - hasn’t diminished one bit. We continue to relive stories where some still desire to see blood spilled on our streets, in hotels, and in churches. We glory in the pain we cause others. But the question is, "To what end?"
On Easter morning in Sri Lanka, Easter’s joy turned into tragedy. In Ghana, however, the National Chief Imam, who is the head of all Muslims in Ghana, worshiped in a Roman Catholic Church on Easter Sunday in celebration of his hundredth birthday. Sadness, devastation and pain on the one hand; joy, celebration, mutual recognition and preservation of our common life on the other. Two pictures of the Easter story for us to ponder over!!
In my mind, Easter answers for us the question of the value of life; whether that life is eleven years or one hundred years, both have equal value. Easter honors the vibrancy of creation, while shaping for us the stake we all have in the new life we have been freely given. I really do not think the Easter story is an exclusive Christian story because belief in the value of life, new life, or the vibrancy of creation shouldn’t be.
And so, as morbid as the tragedy is, I'm convinced that - in so far as none is never too old to set another goal or too old to dream a new dream - may it then be your goal and my goal, your dream and my dream, to dream like the eleven-year-old boy whose only desire was to solve one of the challenging medical problems of our time, and may it be your goal, if you can do anything at all, to be kind.