Our collective sickness: Killing ‘others’ for tribalism

It’s been a bad week for peace, human decency and the teachings of basically every major world religion.

On Monday, Israeli troops killed 60 and injured more than 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza.  Israel apologists vilified the dead, to justify the bloodshed in the name of ‘Murica and God.

And why were Palestinians protesting?

Imagine your family was forced into one of the most densely populated areas on Earth — 1.8 million people in an area less than twice the size of Enid (a small Oklahoma city of 50,000).  Imagine your family has lived under a blockade since 2007, denied the basic necessities of life.

Ninety-seven percent of “drinking water” is contaminated with salt and sewage. Unemployment, 44 percent. Half of all kids suffer anemia. PTSD affects 92 percent of teens. It’s a post-apocalyptic land virtually devoid of hope.

Imagine it’s not “them.” Imagine it’s you. Those are your kids starving and dying. And you can’t cross an arbitrary line — running through what was your home — to procure work, food or medicine. Would you protest? Would you do more than protest?

Palestinians who protested Monday — on the anniversary of losing their homes — were met with clouds of tear gas and live rounds. And, thanks to the blockade, hospitals lacked medicine and diesel for generators to treat the wounded.  In response, our UN ambassador praised Israelis for their “restraint” and our president proclaimed it “a great day for Israel.”

It seems 60 dead and concentration camp conditions for 1.8 million people are no reason to stifle a good party.

But, the atrocities in Gaza are only symptomatic of a wider problem.  It’s not just Israel and America failing to see the worth of fellow human beings.

On Sunday, six members of one family detonated suicide bombs in three churches in Indonesia, killing 13. On Wednesday, Christians remembered the estimated one million Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Copts who were killed or died of starvation under a Muslim military regime during the Sudanese civil wars (1982-2005).

World history since 2001 is littered with acts of violence, committed by extremists who hijacked Islam and violated its core teachings to promote a false theology of hate. Muslims also suffer at the hands of those who twist faith to kill in God’s name. Most of the victims of ISIS, and our bombing campaigns, have been Muslim civilians.

As you read this, almost 700,000 of the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are exiled by a campaign of murder and rape, committed largely by Buddhist militias.  And, we must never forget much of Christian history resembles more of the antichrist than Christ.

I wrote recently about the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, when Christian militants, aided by Israeli troops, killed as many as 3,500 unarmed Palestinian refugees. Christian Zionists have plied social media since Monday with every evil deed by someone acting in the name of Islam in the last thousand years, all to show the righteousness of killing Palestinians in the name of Israel.

Even when accurate (seldom), these figures overlook the Christian history of one- to nine-million people killed in the Crusades, and somewhere between 30,000 and 300,000 more in the Inquisition — some scholars insist it’s in the millions. The wars of Reformation killed 50 million more. Or 120 million. Who knows? We were much better at killing in God’s name than keeping records back then.

But, that animosity lives on. Hate crimes committed by so-called Christians against Muslims (and Sikhs, or anyone else mistaken for Muslim) have hit an all-time high since 2014. The root cause of all this isn’t the true and uncorrupted teachings of any of these faiths. They all, at their core, teach loving your neighbor as the path to righteousness.  The root cause is we categorize each other as less-than human, based on petty tribalism — and we cloak it all in God and nationalism.

The deaths of Palestinians, Rohingya, Sudanese — these barely register a blip on our collective conscience, because they are the “other.”

We turned a blind eye to Gaza. Two days later, our nation had this to say about immigrants (travelers, or sojourners, if you prefer the biblical reference) within our own borders: “These aren’t people, these are animals.”

To heal that kind of hate, and promote a more just, peaceful world, we need strength tempered by humility and grace — the kind of leadership that sees all humans as equals. An itinerant Jewish rabbi once said a few things about that, not far from where the Gazans were murdered on Monday.

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