Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"in arms abroad"

posted by k

The stories change daily.

It began when a young man - a soldier - was kidnapped. At least, that's when it seemed to begin. This is just part of a story that has been going on for a very long time.

The young soldier is only 19. It's easy to say that 19 is adult and soldiers should expect to be held responsible for the crimes of their state. It's easy enough to list atrocities committed by soldiers. I don't know what this young man is like or what he believes. All I know is that he is young, that he is - at best - a prisoner, and that he is loved. I would like to see him freed.

The police here have some expertise in negotiating with kidnappers. They don't use bombs and missiles. They talk and they listen. The negotiate and work for calm. But now the bombs are falling. Homes become heaps of fragments. In territories under siege, people are dying now or are frightened or in pain. Some are young, pregnant, frail or old. They too are loved and the sight of their death and suffering prompts new calls for vengeance. People who grieve and suffer - people see the pain of those they love - find compassion difficult. Abuse does not usually create saints.

More kidnappings, more pain, more death. The men who run the world - or want to run the world - accuse new people, new nations. They're building their image - looking after their place in history. It's the victors who write the history books. Meanwhile bombs and missiles shatter everyday lives. Refugees in flight are stopped and torn and burnt.

What happened to that 19-year-old who no-one mentions any more? And what is it really about? Oil? Hatred? Power?

I keep watching the stories and notice how they change. Last week's causes aren't the same as this week's. Tomorrow we'll have a new account, a new set of reasons, a new agenda. We start to think of ways out of the crisis - ways to stop the pain and the killing and the grief. For a moment we think we're getting there. Then we're told we've got it wrong - the cause and the enemy have changed.

I shall read the papers carefully and track back through the changes. If I can't find the truth, at least I'll pick up some of the lies - and recognize the falsehood.

Meanwhile, how can we persuade the armies to step back or people to give up their weapons? We may start with the truth - but where is sufficient kindness, courage or intelligence? Who will sacrifice dreams of vengeance for hope and the chance of a future?

If we ever know the truth, what can we do to accomplish change?

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