Sunday, August 9, 2015

Killing Bloggers in Bangladesh

I was getting ready to talk about 1 Kings 4-8 and John 6:41-51, two of today's Bible readings, when I read about Niloy Neel:

(From Facebook, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("Niloy Neel was an atheist from a Hindu background"
(BBC News))
"Bangladesh blogger Niloy Neel hacked to death in Dhaka"
(August 7, 2015)

"A Bangladeshi blogger known for his atheist views has been hacked to death by a gang armed with machetes in the capital Dhaka, police say.

"Niloy Neel was attacked at his home in the city's Goran area.

"He is the fourth secularist blogger to have been killed this year by suspected Islamist militants in Bangladesh.

"Imran H Sarkar, head of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, told the BBC that Mr Neel had been an anti-extremist voice of reason.

" 'He was the voice against fundamentalism and extremism and was even a voice for minority rights - especially women's rights and the rights of indigenous people,' he said.

"BBC World Service South Asia editor Charles Haviland says that, like previous victims, Mr Neel was not only secular but atheist and, like two of the others, he was from a Hindu, not a Muslim, background...."
What I had to say about the Bread of life, depression, and Ezekiel's run-in with Jezebel, will wait.

Niloy Neel's killers probably thought they were committing an execution, not a murder. Either way, Niloy Neel is dead: and quite a few other folks in Bangladesh are in serious danger.1

At first glance, this looks like something that doesn't matter to me. I'm not an atheist; my life hasn't been threatened; and I live in central North America: a long way from Bangladesh.

But "atheist" bloggers in Bangladesh are human, I'm Catholic: so I must care about them, and everyone else.

I'll get back to that after another excerpt from BBC News:
"...Analysis: Mukul Devichand, editor, BBC Trending

"All four men killed were on a list of 84 'atheist bloggers' drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.

"It was originally submitted to the government with the aim of having the bloggers arrested and tried for blasphemy. The groups which wanted bloggers arrested told us they have no knowledge of who is behind the killings.

"There is also a more complex backdrop to the killings. Islamic groups label all these bloggers 'atheists' - and many did indeed use the internet to criticise those who believe in God.

"But in fact, not all the bloggers were atheists. What they did have in common was they were part of a wider, secular movement that took to the streets in protest in 2013...."
(BBC News)

Life and Love

Human life is sacred. All human life: mine, yours, Mukul Devichand's, Niloy Neel's, his killers'; everyone's. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258-2262)

I must love God, love my neighbors, see everyone as my neighbor, and treat others as I'd like to be treated. No exceptions. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism, 1789)

I also must respect folks who don't believe as I do: including atheists. We're all rational creatures, able to talk with each other.2 How we use our reason — or don't use it — is up to us, and that gets me into free will and other topics. (Catechism, 39, 1730, 2104)

If you've met a Catholic whose loathing of 'foreigners' is exceeded only by his or her seething hatred of immigrants: I'm not surprised.

Loving God and neighbors isn't easy. I'm describing what we should believe and how we should act: not how the billion-plus living Catholics actually live up to those standards.

Our failure to live up to the standards set by Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, St. Francis of Assisi, and Pope St. Fabian, reflects our shortcomings. It doesn't mean that loving our neighbors, and treating others as we'd like to be treated, is a bad idea.

Change, Then - - -

(From "The Public Schools Historical Atlas" by Charles Colbeck, via Hel-hama, Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Europe in 814, the year Charlemagne died.)

About a dozen centuries back, a warlord brought order and a measure of stability to lands from Vasdomia to Chrobatia, and from the Kingdom of the Lombards to Jutland. For the first time since Rome's empire had dissolved, folks from the Mediterranean to the North sea had some hope of peace and stability.

We call him Charles the Great. Charlemagne is also known as Karl der Große, Carolus, and Karolus Magnus. Charlemagne has been mythologized as a shining light of civilization, and a demonic slayer of 'true' Europeans. There's a little truth in both images.

Scholarship, arts, architecture, and literature, flourished during his reign. On the other hand, he gave those he conquered a choice: say that they were Christian, or die.

My wife probably lost relatives when Charlemagne's enforcers gave folks in Verden a choice: become Christian, or die. We're still cleaning up the mess that left.

Eventually, her ancestors and mine became Christians: keeping parts of our native cultures, but abandoning customs like human sacrifice.

Europe has changed quite a bit since Charlemagne's day.

The Avar Khaganate was conquered, partly by Charlemagne's empire, partly by the First Bulgarian Empire. Ystrad Clud is currently part of southern Scotland and northern England. Frisia eventually joined the Upstalsboom League, and you hardly ever read about either these days.

Europe settled down for a bit — until the Lindisfarne incident, when Vikings started stirring things up. I probably had kinsmen on both sides of that.

- - - and Now

A little later, the Great Famine of 1315–17, Black Death, and assorted other crises set off a series of economic and social upheavals.

I think Western civilization lost track of some important values over the next few centuries, but we've made some progress, too. About a half-century back we finally decided that killing each other in wholesale lots was a bad idea.

The United Nations and European Union aren't perfect, and I'd be astounded if either last more than a a few centuries: but they're a start.

We haven't had anything quite like the Black Death lately, and I hope we're within a few generations of putting famine on humanity's 'problem almost solved' list. (January 23, 2015; October 17, 2014)

I'm not sure what overturned so many American applecarts in the mid-1960s. I strongly suspect that we're looking at an anything-but-simple situation.

Many folks with African ancestry had moved from the Old South to the Rust belt during the first half of the 20th century. Folks had been moving off the farm and into cities, and the mean center of population shifted from Indiana to Illinois as American families moved west: many to California.

I strongly suspect that many baby boomers were raised by comparatively affluent couples — who had unintentionally isolated themselves from their extended families.

Pulling up roots and moving is nothing new. We've been doing it for a very long time. (May 3, 2015; July 11, 2014)

In 'Happy Days' America, inexperienced young couples left their elders behind.

Age doesn't necessarily bring wisdom, but I'm not convinced that self-appointed 'child psychology experts' were an improvement on an extended family's grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and grandfathers.

I'm a 'boomer,' by some definitions: and remember the 'good old days' when "she's smart as a man" was supposed to be a compliment.

I was one of 'those crazy kids' who thought buying stuff you don't need with money you don't have to impress people you don't like — made no sense. I still don't, and that's almost another topic.

The point of this trip down memory lane is that America and the world have changed, a lot, in the last century.

Some of the changes haven't turned out as I had hoped, but I most sincerely do not yearn for the 'good old days.'

Dealing With Difference

Folks in Bangladesh who wanted their country's government to punish 'blasphemers' may be as sincere as Americans who want to protect their country from people like me.

I 'look Anglo,' but I'm not. One of my ancestors, asked about a young man who had shown interest in her daughter, replied "he doesn't have family, he's Irish." The two got married anyway, which made me possible.

Most Americans have probably gotten over the shock of having Irish neighbors by now, and it's been decades since Father James Coyle was killed for marrying a Puerto Rican to the daughter of a 'regular American.' (September 11, 2014)

But like I've said before, being sincere doesn't justify acting badly.

Bangladesh is a new country, less than a half-century old, but folks have been living there since traders near the Ravi river were importing lapis lazuli. Longer, actually.

That part of the world has changed since the Pala Empire's day. For example, almost half the folks there can read and write these days: 61.3% (men) and 52.2% (women) in 2010. (Wikipedia)

Depending on your viewpoint, that's a low literacy rate: or evidence of a shocking disregard for traditional values.

I don't see a problem with "letting" women read, write, drive cars, or think. But that's no great virtue on my part. My mother's Norwegian, my father's mostly Irish, and I married a German-American whose father told the local school to let one of his daughters take shop class if she wanted to.

I've talked about Ephesians 5:22, cultural quirks, and getting a grip, before. (October 12, 2014)

So, what can I do to make Bangladesh safe for folks who don't live up the standards of some Islamic soreheads? Very little, actually.

There's prayer, of course. I don't write about that aspect of my faith much, but it's important. (August 26, 2014)

I can also share what I think about living in a big world.

Looking Ahead

I am part of an outfit that's literally καθολικός, universal: a united and diverse people, embracing all cultures and all times. It's about as close to living in Tennyson's "Federation of the world" as I can hope for in my remaining years:
"...Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world....

"...And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law...."
("Locksley Hall," Tennyson (1842, rev. 1865) via
The Catholic Church has "universal law:" rules that apply to everybody.

They boil down to what I wrote earlier: 'love God, love my neighbor, see everybody as my neighbor.' (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 5:43-44; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-30; Catechism, 1825)

How we apply this universal law depends on how, where, and when, we live.

This isn't the 1st, 11th, or 20th, century any more. My job isn't trying to live in some bygone era. It's applying principles that haven't changed since before Hammurabi's Code was written to living in today's world.

Change happens, some things don't change, and that's another topic. Topics. (Catechism, 302, 1954-1960)

Even if I could, I wouldn't force you to believe what I do. Again: I must respect everyone who seeks truth. (Catechism, 2104)

As I've said before, often, part of our mandate is building a better world — one with a greater degree of justice and charity: and respect for "the transcendent dignity of man." (Catechism, 1928-1942, 2419-2442)

That includes freedom to worship: for everyone.

I can hardly expect others to respect my right to worship if I heap abuse on those who are not just like me. Or, worse, try forcing them to agree with me. (Catechism, 1738, 2104-2109, 2357-2359)

I think we can make a difference — If we help others keep what is good and just in our cultures, change what is not, and act as if loving our neighbors makes sense.

We must be patient, though. Folks can't be forced to embrace truth: particularly when it means giving up some cherished injustice, or long-established privileges.

But truth wins — eventually. Slavery, for example, had been a way of life for millennia. Laws regarding slaves show up in the law codes of Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi, and Roman law.

Then, a century or so back, quite a few folks in some nations started acting as if owning people was wrong. I've been over that before. (August 31, 2014; July 13, 2014)

That's just one social ill, of course. Humanity has an enormous backlog of unresolved issues: including a regrettably-common hatred of folks who are different.

A few more thoughts, and I'm done.

There's nothing most of us can do to keep wannabe leaders from using fear and hate to attract attention or suppress opposing opinions. But we can avoid following their example.

I remember the trailing edge of McCarthyism, endured political correctness, and think both were very bad ideas. (July 19, 2015; November 11, 2011)

I think, and hope, that Bangladesh will recover from colonial rule, and that most folks there will get used to the idea that having different opinions isn't a crime.

Maybe — if we keep working with all people of good will — some time around the 42nd century we'll even have an "international authority with the necessary competence and power" to resolve conflicts without war. (Catechism, 2307-2317; "Gaudium et Spes," 79 § 4)

And that's yet another topic.

More of my take on cautious optimism and the long view:

1 More:
2 Truth and respect are important:
" 'All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.'26 This duty derives from 'the very dignity of the human person.'27 It does not contradict a 'sincere respect' for different religions which frequently 'reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men,'28 nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians 'to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith.'29"
(Catechism, 2104)
I've been over that sort of thing before. Quite a bit:


Manny said...

How horrible. May that young man be welcomed into the kingdom of God.

Brian H. Gill said...


Unknown said...

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.