Such extreme violence against minorities tends to be perpetrated by the country’s many and various militant organisations. The group that claimed responsibility for this latest attack has links to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and said it was acting in retaliation for drone strikes. Yet the problem runs far deeper than a few rogue elements. Disturbingly, these extremist groups, which have been allowed to operate by successive governments, do have an impact on the national debate. This has contributed to increasing intolerance across society.
In south central Pennsylvania this afternoon, the news on the television mounted in a corner beneath the ceiling of the diner where I was enjoying a late lunch hung on the tragedy playing out in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. This other story involving a death toll greater than Westgate — 85 as opposed to 68 — and targeting a Christian community and its sacred space may have had a different presence, less visceral, less important for having taken place in Muslim-majority Pakistan and having involved a less affluent and cosmopolitan community.
Or perhaps we are more used to hearing of Islamist outrages in Pakistan — something in the realm of Islamic arm twisting and terror happens every day or every other day in Pakistan’s part of the Islamic Small Wars — and then, again, it’s a Muslim state and one with an outlook very different from Christian Kenya’s with its historic and decent relationship with Israel.
Their 52-year-old father had been looking forward to it, particularly the period after the service when the congregation spills out into the enclosed courtyard to chat.
“He was looking forward to seeing his friends,” said Joel.
It’s convenient, I suppose, for this old bleeding heart to bleed for everyone at the desktop: in my pseudo-solopsist online existence, all of the Islamic Small Wars (and a few others) occupy the same space, about 24-inches from eyes to screen. In real space, are they not on just one planet? Are they not coinciding, if not colliding, in time?
Is there anything that would make the murder of a 52-year-old father returning to church in Peshawar any less horrific and tragic than that of his doppelgänger gone shopping for a few hours in a mall in Nairobi?
Perhaps Pakistanis who now must admit the state’s declared religion has been hewed to, commandeered, perverted, or merely exploited (choose any option) by those “who would fly planes into office building” or blow up wedding processions, funerals, or parishioners gathering after services at church should lend attention to the more harmonious and tolerant values of the west and of the Christians. And of the Jews. And, perhaps, infidel others ever so much more at peace with the wide, wide world and themselves.
Israeli interests in Kenya run deep. According to the website of Israel’s embassy in Nairobi, Israel has provided technical assistance in areas such as agriculture and medicine for decades, in some cases going back to the days before Kenyan independence in 1963.