Horror always comes with a face.
The daily death toll from Syria and Afghanistan, the bombings in Lebanon, the drone strikes in Pakistan, the daily indignities in the West Bank and Gaza, the riots and persecutions and crackdowns too often become little more than statistics that arouse little emotion in us. We are not compelled to confront the terrors being visited upon our fellow human beings because we rarely encounter either the victims or the perpetrators as real human beings.
The Middle East is being torn apart by strife that is pitting Muslim against Muslim, and religious extremists against Christian and all other religious minorities.
That is why the case of Malala Yousufzai is so important. Horror has been given a face, and it is the face of a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was brave enough to defend the education of girls, and who was singled out for assassination by the Taliban — an assassination that by the grace of God failed (see story, Page 5). Her crime was to reject the intimidation of violent fundamentalists, and her sentence was to have been death.
Malala’s story has captured the attention of the world, and justifiably so. At the same time, the challenges currently facing the Middle East are far greater in scale than the near fatal wounding of one girl. From Pakistan to Afghanistan, from Egypt to Syria, there is a tremendous battle taking place that goes beyond the bombs and the bullets. The Middle East is being torn apart by strife that is pitting Muslim against Muslim, and religious extremists against Christian and all other religious minorities.
Pope Benedict XVI has warned that “Economic and political instability, a readiness on the part of some to manipulate others, and a defective understanding of religion help open the door to religious fundamentalism.”
In his most recent apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (“The Church in the Mideast”), released during his historic, and historically under-reported, visit to Lebanon, the pope appealed to Christians, Jews and Muslims to “rediscover one of God’s desires, that of the unity and harmony of the human family.” Appealing to the monotheism that typifies the three great religions, the pope urged them to eschew violence: “Rather than being exploited in endless conflicts which are unjustifiable for authentic believers, the acknowledgment of one God — if lived with a pure heart — can make a powerful contribution to peace in the region and to respectful coexistence on the part of its peoples.”
For the better part of two years, both parties have been preparing for this election. Americans have been subjected to an unprecedented amount of campaign advertising and rhetoric.
On Nov. 6, it will be time for America to decide. Our Sunday Visitor, as a nonprofit organization, is not allowed to endorse candidates. We can, however, urge Catholics not to leave their faith at the entrance to the voting booth. As Catholics, as Americans, we know that the principles of our faith, fully lived, provide a framework for protecting the human dignity of all Americans — from conception to natural death, and in all walks of life and economic conditions — and for dealing with the great domestic and international issues of the day.
Polling suggests that Catholics are as divided as the general electorate. Where Catholics can unite is in their recognition that voting is a sacred responsibility, and that we vote not just for what helps our own pocketbook or our own family situation, but for what is best for our nation based on the Catholic principles we hold dear.