Death of Peace activist in Middle East. He was a friend of mine
A few days ago I went to my local Catholic church to attend a mass in memory of a wonderful peace-loving man from the Middle East who was horribly tortured in prison by soldiers before being taken out through a screaming mob of religious fanatics to a hillside where he was publicly executed.
A social revolutionary, he was someone that I admired not just for what he had achieved in his short life but how he overcome prejudices even before he was born. For his mother was a young teenage girl who became pregnant whilst unmarried. In their very conservative traditional society, this would have meant being stoned to death. But her fiancée saved her from such a fate by marrying her even though he knew that the baby was not his.
Born into poverty, the child was forced to flee with his parents from their homeland to escape certain death at the hands of religious extremists. The refugee family later returned to their village and lived quietly for many years. But later in life, the son became a target for the political and religious establishment when he started to travel around the country as a leading advocate for pacifism, religious tolerance, women’s rights, respect for children, and for a egalitarian classless society in order to end the economic exploitation of the masses by a wealthy clerical and political elite. Women and men flocked to open air rallies to hear him speak. His exploits were legendary: he once through his words saved a woman accused of adultery from being stoned to death by a group of fundamentalists. He befriended criminals, the sick, the poor, social outcasts, peoples of different faiths as well as members of the hated occupying army and their compliant state officials. He condemned the hypocrisy of the all-powerful religious establishment who felt threatened by his ideology. They constantly harassed him, tried to break up his meetings, planted spies amongst his followers. Ever the pacifist, even when he was physically threatened, he never allowed his followers to use physical force to defend him. But his enemies finally got him arrested on trumped-up charges of being both a blasphemer and an enemy of the state. He was condemned to a slow agonising death by a jeering crowd whipped up into a frenzy by clerics saying he had insulted their religion.
During his lifetime and since his death, some people have referred to him as a prophet, others say he was the son of God and there are those who think he was mad and delusional. I though over the years have been inspired by the radical progressive teachings of love, respect, liberty, equality and justice that were taught by this poor Jewish man from Galilee. Though I never met him, I would like to think that Jesus was a friend of mine.
May I extend New Year greetings of peace and goodwill to all my friends who are Muslims, Jews, atheists, Pantheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Druze, agnostics, Bahai’s and Christians. The cultural diversity and religious differences that we share strengthens our friendship.
faoi mhaise daoibh.