On Easter morning, while millions around the world gathered in worship and celebration, a handful of religious fanatics came together to murder Christians, to murder families enjoying a holiday vacation… to murder at least 45 children.
The speculation as to “why” this attack was perpetrated (murder never just “happens”) has been, to cite a cliché, “rampant.” It’s true that sectarian tensions in Sri Lanka have been high, even a decade after the end of the generation-long civil war. It’s also true that a certain Islamic fascist organization is looking for attention after being soundly beaten on the battlefield. And, it’s a fact that this attack was intended to draw the attention of the world, especially the West, due to the targeted attacks on Christians and Western tourists.
The Fundamental Disconnect
Here’s the thing… There were many faiths and many nations represented in the dead. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, hotel staff invited ministers from local Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim communities to hold services to mourn staff members of those faiths. People of many faiths who had come together as a team to serve visitors from across the world. Vacationers from China, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Australia, the UK, and the USA. And there will be others, because some of the victims are still “missing,” which, in the aftermath of a bombing, is a euphemism for “we don’t have ‘enough’ to make an identification.”
These psychopaths targeted Christians, but they murdered people of many faiths, including the faith they claim to represent. They massacred Muslim children along with their Christian friends. Listening to a local Christian bishop choke up as he talked about finding dead little girls in one of his churches was heart-breaking. He said, among the dead, were two little girls, one Christian and one Muslim, who just wanted to share a special holiday service with their best friend.
The Archbishop of Colombo said, “Only animals can behave like this…” And, while I understand the sentiment, I disagree. Animals don’t murder scores of random strangers for political gain. Only humans do that. More often than not, they are fascists hiding behind a warped version of their religion, a doctrine that comes equipped with malicious blinders.
Blinded to Beauty
I’m not going to get any further into the “why” and “what” here. Instead, I want to talk about perspective, specifically the psychopathic myopia that allows nine relatively young and relatively well-educated people to commit suicide murder in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
This is a photo from a resort near Colombo, a city in which at least 82 people were killed.
This is a photo from a beach near Batticaloa, on the eastern coast, where another bomb killed at least 28 people.
I spent a lot of time this morning, considering this dichotomy: that this atrocity was perpetrated in one of the most beautiful places in the world. A place barely ten years removed from a horrific civil war. Sri Lanka has been struggling to find its way out of that morass of violence and retribution. Tourism has been a key factor in that growth. After the war, when the bullets stopped flying and bombs stopped falling, the surfers, as they tend to do, came first.
Here’s a simple and beautiful 3-minute take on living and learning to surf in Sri Lanka, produced by Lapoint Surf Camps.
Behind the beach, along the idyllic Sri Lankan coasts, the results of the war weighed heavy on politics and the life of the people. A generation was growing up who had not known war, but their older siblings, and their parents still bore the scars. Despite this, people of goodwill across Sri Lanka chose to come together to build a better future, and the country’s natural beauty once again began to draw travelers and adventure seekers. Then, on Easter morning, in churches and hotels on both coasts, the world exploded.
As I pondered the beauty of the world and the ugliness of these events, I was reminded of the lyrics to Colin Hay’s evocative “Beautiful World.” As he struggles to balance the beauty and tragedy he sees in the world, Colin finds himself drawn to the water. He sings:
“My my my, It’s a beautiful world
I like swimming in the sea
I like to go out beyond the white breakers
Where a man can still be free…
But, later in the song:
All around is anger, automatic guns
Death in large numbers, no respect for woman, or our little ones…”
Colin sings about emptiness, his own and that of others who try to fill the blank space inside with vice, despite being surrounded by beauty and blessed with good company… Hearing this, I thought about how empty a person must be to believe massacring families is the proper response to… anything. I know, for the next few weeks, the pundits will argue about the “motives” of the attackers. How they must be full or rage or hate or horrific theology.
Maybe they are full of these things… But I tend to think they’re empty. I think, if you’re surrounded by people of goodwill, living in a beautiful world, and you choose to intentionally blow children to pieces, you must be dead inside.
Knowing another human can go through life so hollowed-out by their doctrine or their circumstances or their psychology breaks my heart. Because it really is a beautiful world… and the humans who committed these horrors could not see it. Even when that beauty was right in front of them…
They could not see the beauty, so they stole it from others who did see it, and they destroyed what they could not steal. There are many layers of tragedy in this horrific event. Among those is that nine people were so blinded to the beauty right in front of them that they attacked that beauty and defiled the future of their own country… Even more tragic, is that, right now, there are others planning to do it again.
It’s my hope that at least some of them will open their eyes and embrace the beauty in this world, before that choice is forever lost to them. But not just them… I hope we all look for the beauty around us and choose to embrace it.
Top image Dhaka Tribune, from Reuters
Other images, Sri Lanka tourism
People have been returning to what is now Rainbow Springs State Park for 10,000 years. One trip and it’s easy to see why. You could put a picture of the park in the dictionary next to “idyllic” and no one could argue. To say this nearly 1500-acre natural...
Destin, Florida, on the northern end of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s Panhandle, is a haven for vacationers looking for exciting water sports and family fun. And, if you would rather slow it down and relax your days away, there is no better spot in...
Homosassa Springs is a surprise. Although it is an official State Park, this land has been a tourist attraction for a century, and it feels more like a theme park than a place of relaxation. Though a day here is undoubtedly relaxing as well. In the early...
“I want to be a creative writer, but I need creative writing help.” I hear some version of that phrase at least once a week — often spoken as a whispered lament, as if asking for creative writing help was somehow shameful. It’s definitely not, and I would...
We are standing on Biloxi Town Green. A row of casinos and a huge neon guitar block our view of the beach, but we are not looking in that direction. In front of us is the Katrina Memorial, a granite monument to the lives lost when one of the worst natural...
A Florida sunset paradise, the thriving island community of Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island, on Florida’s southwest coast, offers fine dining, island style shopping and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and water sports fun. Plus, Estero Island...
One of the highlights of my writing career was the day I got a call from LtCol H. Spencer Faircloth (Ret.). Spence wanted my help writing a book about his extraordinary life. He didn’t land at Normandy on D-Day. He was still a kid, back home in Georgia,...