Eye for an Eye?

Libyans Vandalize British graves in retaliation for Koran burning

I was saddened when I heard the news about the Islamists in Libya who destroyed the graves of British soldiers at a World War II cemetery in Libya. In my culture it is wrong to desecrate a grave. I would imagine it is wrong in Islam as well, which is why they did it. But even more scandalous was the desecration of the cross that hung above the graves of the soldiers who died there. As Christians, that speaks a very clear and hate filled message. When I saw the copy of the self- promotional video created by the vandals that was so brazenly aired on Youtube, I was caught off guard. The vandals wore no masks to cover their faces while committing the crime. Instead, they openly and unabashedly engaged in the crime and destruction while all along chanting “Allahu Akbar”, God is great. The reason for the act was simple, revenge. It was in response to the US burning of the Koran in Afghanistan. Perhaps the Libyan’s hadn’t gotten the whole story of the secret spy codes in Koran’s that were burned, or even heard that the US and even President Obama himself apologized for burning their holy books. But either way, I am confident God wasn’t behind either act of destruction so rather than chanting “God is great” while committing the crime, let’s keep his name out of it.

What saddened me most about this act, is that the actions don’t reflect the sentiment of the majority of Libyans. In fact, many of the progressive leaders I have worked with in Libya in recent months also have concern about the growing fundamentalist influence and the propaganda that is being spread among the Libyan people, especially as the June elections approach.

I was just in Libya in January. We held a two-week leadership training course for 100 medical, business and governmental leaders in Benghazi in ethics, leadership, conflict resolution, and administration. It was the first of many trainings to come, in civil society and capacity building. It was all very new information and designed to help transform wrong patterns of thought that were indoctrinated into the minds of the people during 42 years of tyranny. The leaders were challenged, but greatly appreciated the material and were given concrete skills to apply immediately in their workplaces and lives.

In my experience, the majority of Libyans are peace-loving people who want change and prosperity. They aren’t looking for another civil war, or to continue fighting. But just like you have the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda in Iraq, you have militant leaders in Libya who are trying to seize power for their own agenda and purposes. They use hate rhetoric and half truths to stir up discontent among the poor people in the country who are still struggling and not seeing the life altering changes that they believed the revolution would bring. Change doesn’t happen over night. This breads discontent. Discontent can lead to hate and abuse. We have seen this play out time and again through history.

I haven’t given up on Libya. Despite the lopsided articles I read in the media, I don’t believe it is imploding or bound for ultimate demise. I have a great deal of hope for the future of Libya. They are a people dearly loved by God, who have gone through 42 years of abuse by a brutal regime and they need to learn there is a better way of doing things. They need the western world to go and help them develop, transform and become peaceful and prosperous.

Even though the vengeful acts of destruction make me angry. I refuse to fight with the enemy’s weapons. I want to see the vandals brought to justice, so it creates deterrence of future bad behavior. But more than that, I want to see forgiveness and reconciliation reign. Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
The reason is simple. The only way to effectively fight hate, is through love!

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