The nation watched with horror and grief as events unfolded over 60 hours as terrorists attacked Mumbai – again. The officers who died in the line of duty, “died so that Mumbai could live." I couldn’t but think of the One who died so that others might live, writes Ajoy Varghese, renowned apologist and CEO of a Multi National Company.
Hemant Karkare, the hassled but extremely brave ATS Commissioner who advanced into the infiltrated Cama Hospital with a flimsy bullet proof vest and his body guard who also fell to terrorist bullets; the young and intrepid Major Unnikrishnan who died in gun battle after carrying a injured colleague of lower rank to safety, the stranger who ran into the hotel lobby to rescue a child, the Taj hotel staffer who went beyond the call of duty and received bullets on his body to save customers he barely knew (and remains in hospital seriously injured) are little personal echoes – of the Man who suffered and died at Calvary to drink and combat the poison of evil, the act itself being the temporal and real image of the timeless cosmic sacrifice of a “Lamb slain before the foundations of the world”.
The gruesome incidents in Mumbai reflect reality at its complex best – a potent mix of good and evil – but a reality, which is being redeemed constantly– by ordinary people with extraordinary character. A redemption kick started in Eden, climaxed in Calvary and to be culminated in the new heavens and the new earth. Regardless of who we are, we are invited to be part of this universal redemptive process.
It is not for us to comment on the eternal destiny of these exceptional men. That remains in the hands of the one who does everything in mercy and justice. Like the Jews who were surprised when they actually met their long awaited Messiah, those among us who claim to know Jesus best should expect to be most surprised about his final choices. The Scriptures give us good indicators so that we may judge ourselves. Regarding others, we are told to withhold judgment and not judge by mere appearance.
What was unanimously evident about these men was that that they were men of integrity – a unanimous verdict delivered by friend and foe alike. These were “good” men – not perfectly good, but good nonetheless. At the risk of being misunderstood; let me suggest that if "all truth is God's truth” then "all goodness is God's goodness". The officers demonstrated the goodness and the initiative of God and consequently their own “God-likeness” in their time and specific situation. For "in him, we live and move and have our being". All good everywhere ever has its roots in God.
As the battle raged between the NSG and the terrorists in 3 places in South Mumbai, survivors, media personnel, police men and others publicly and on camera exhorted people to pray to “God” as they waited for the violent drama to end – an illustration of the peculiar Indian understanding of secularism. Some of the news anchors in CNN-IBN went so far as to state that there is only one God and we should look to him for peace and blessings during this time of need. To some of us, this may not indicate a substantial understanding of God. However, for those without the explicit revelation and illumination that Christ alone brings, its substantial enough to take them through a paralyzing crisis. And, at least in some cases, true.
This is India – where polytheism and monotheism can co-exist -as two sides of the same coin – with the open admission that all knowledge of the divine is limited and hence appears contradictory. This should indicate that “the harvest is ripe” for the gospel and not as hard a ground as many make it out to be. Is this really the spiritually dark India that some Christians like to paint for Western audiences and funds! Rarely, if ever, is so much of a pre-evangelized mindset already present in any religious context like it has been for centuries in India (militant Hinduism & Islam not withstanding) . But the typical evangelist prefers to ignore the existing bridges and builds barriers instead!
Terrorism (which I understand as the deliberate, unprovoked injuring/killing of innocents not in battle), whether practiced by individuals or States ultimately does not have a face, a race, color or religion. Every face is a mask used by the Enemy to protect his identity. This face may be definitional, ideological, religious or political and must be fought relentlessly at those levels. However, unless we expose the Enemy, we mistake the wood for the trees. While terrorism can be labeled Hindu, Islamic, Christian etc, the terrorists themselves are not our enemies. If we are not careful, we will set ourselves against the very people we are called to deliver – sinners from religious or non-religious backgrounds– whom Christ calls us to love up to the point of laying our lives down for them.
Can the Indian church speak unequivocally against terrorism regardless of who is involved without hiding under the fig leaf of definitions and semantics? Can we condemn the deliberate, unprovoked injuring/killing of innocents everywhere? Can we state equally that we love the terrorist in the name of Christ? When will our Sunday sermons begin to move away from individual piety alone and address the context that we live in where unjust violence is becoming the norm?
The sacrifice of the brave men over the last 3 days would be a travesty if we don’t learn our lessons – as a nation and as church. Already, there are early indications that the people we elect will exploit and manipulate history when it is too early to be forgotten. The Modis and the Laloos have begun to trade charges even before the operations had ended. The very politicians across the country who vilified the ATS commissioner just days ago have started to gain political mileage from his death. If the PM does not intervene, heads don’t roll and a plan of action to protect the country is not in place soon, we might see the people taking to the streets. Mumbai at least does not want to be seen again “with its pants down”.
The parallels with the church in India are astounding. While many Christian leaders and their families live virtually in the lap of luxury making token gestures exploiting photo opportunities, the average foot soldier for Christ in urban, rural or jungle settings live hand-to-mouth existences with his commitment being exploited by the learned, the sophisticated and the well-connected leadership. The Indian soldier has to fight Pakistan’s forces without even decent shoes to protect him in the cold in Siachen. The Mumbai policeman gets a lathi or a country revolver to charge terrorists wielding AK-47s. The Christian missionary in far-flung areas gets little financial or other support except “we will pray for you”. And this, while his work is publicized to collect funds to support his leadership’s whims and fancies. Unlike corporate business houses, most Indian political and church leadership lack accountability. As the church calls politicians to accountability and transparency, will its leadership do the same?
When Christians in the country spoke up against the Orrisa atrocities recently, an oft-repeated charge was “Why don’t Christians speak up when people of other communities suffer?” This confuses the church itself with the self appointed or adroitly manipulated spo
kespersons for the church, most of whom have never been in the frontlines of spiritual battle or even understand its dynamics. The church in India speaks up against evildoers and evil systems every day and stands up for societies many victims through its workers, missionaries, social workers, bible translators, community workers, lawyers, businessmen, artists and others. But this is not news worthy information for the media and does not get covered. In spite of numerous ordinary Christians spread across the country and stripping evil of its many disguises every day.
As the soul-searching begins in the Prime Minister’s cabinet to get its act together to rectify the huge security lapses leading to the “war on Mumbai”, the church must join hands with the government for every just cause, including the suspension of civil liberties for a period, if necessary. For missions, we must arm the foot soldier with resources necessary so that he/she can fight the battle competently and without fear. Those in church leadership must be willing to lead from the front (like the ATS commissioner Hemant Karkare) whenever required. If they don’t know to play the game, they must let go of their positions. Get coached if necessary but stay out of the way of people who actually do the work.
Above all, we must pray for the country as it battles the political and economic fallout of these terrorist attacks. The poor will be hugely affected as jobs dry up in the country and job’s overseas become less lucrative. The 200 million Indians who go to bed hungry every night will increase in number. As we brace ourselves for the impact of the global recession, Christians must demonstrate faith, initiative, creativity, generosity and courage as we provide multiple solutions to generate wealth and employment. Above all, we must be willing to pray. For without divine intervention, this battle will continue to wax and wane but never be over.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are personal and does not necessarily represent the organization he belongs to.