I wasn’t going to read the news reports on the murders at the Bangladeshi café. I was scanning the paper last Sunday morning when I saw the headline on the siege at the Dhaka bakery and passed right over it, not wanting to see one more bloody, terrifying image of pure hate.
But the horror was so overwhelming, I found myself reading anyway. The details were as terrible as I’d imagined, with one exception—a young Bangladeshi man named Faraaz Hossain. A graduate of Oxford and a rising junior at Emory’s business school in Georgia, Hossain was dining at the restaurant with two young women, also college students studying in America, when the commandos offered to let him go.
But Hossain wouldn’t leave, not unless his friends were allowed to leave also. His slashed and brutalized body was discovered the next morning along with those of his friends. When Hossain’s body was returned to his family, the New York Times reported that his wounds—including a slash through the palm of his right hand—indicated that he’d tried to seize his captor’s sword and fight back.
What courage in the face of fear. What kindness in the face of cruelty. What love in the face of hate.
Including the attack that took Hossain’s life, more than 300 people were killed in similar terrorist acts last week in Turkey, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Despite the overwhelming numbers, another Times article cited the growing indifference to these acts of jihadist violence because they took place off of Western soil.
Yet, we, like Hossain, must find the courage to face down hatred. We must find the kindness to care and a way to express the love that binds us together as people created in God’s image. This is not a time to grow indifferent. It is a time to pray. A time to weep. And a time to take action.
“What is a symbol?” I asked my 6-year-old son as we celebrated Independence Day.
“Something that means something else?” he guessed.
“Yeah,” I said, explaining that our flag is a symbol of our country. “What’s a symbol that shows we are Christians?”
He had a couple ideas—church, the cross on our dining room wall. But the true symbol of Christianity is much deeper.
“It’s love,” I said.
Jesus didn’t say that others would know we are Christians by our fancy cross jewelry or going to church on Sunday. It’s not by our clothes or the people we hang out with or how much money we give or the incense we burn. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love for one another,” John 13:35 (ESV).
In this time of growing violence and hatred and fear, let us be your hands Lord, willing to be wounded.
Let us be your feet, willing to stay.
Let us be the face of love.
With prayers for the family of Faraaz Hossain and the many others slain this week, including the black men in our own country by police officers and for the police officers and their families. God have mercy. May we all find the kindness to care and to work for peace and justice.