But it was not evil that had been born; it was Christianity. Humanity had never before heard such words: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again… But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.’ And what did this doctrine of peace and love bring to humanity? Byzantine iconoclasticism; the tortures of the Inquisition; the struggles against heresy in France, Italy, Flanders and Germany; the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism; the intrigues of the monastic orders; the conflict between Nikon and Avvakum; the crushing yoke that lay for centuries over science and freedom; the Christians who wiped out the heathen population of Tasmania; the scoundrels who burnt whole Negro villages in Africa. This doctrine caused more suffering than all the crimes of the people who did evil for its own sake…
Vasily Grossman in Life and Fate.
Whenever I go to that dark place in myself that tells me there is something wrong with, (and here is the truth that most of us struggle against so much because something in our souls tells us that we shouldn’t think that) Islam I seek out this quote and read it because it reminds me that even words like love your neighbour can result in actions like slavery and colonialism and genocide. These words remind me that the trouble we cause ourselves does not lie in anything divine. It is not in the best image of ourselves, in the ideal that humans everywhere have strived to create out of dreams, memories, dust and magic that the horror we visit upon ourselves lies. It is not the fault of our gods or of our modes of worshipping them that we do the things we do but something else.
I was brought up as a Christian and I can testify that the only holy book I know is not completely a book of peace. The Old Testament is a collection of horrid acts done by a people at the behest of their God or done against these people at the behest of other gods. It is a story of a God that most Christians would not embrace without being given the benefit of his other side. The side that forgives is the one they pray to while the one that burns down whole cities and floods whole worlds and orders complete genocides is one that they would rather forget. Yahweh of the Israelites is a warrior God approving of the war-like ways of his people promising to keep the sun up until his chosen people have slaughtered enough people to teach their enemies a lesson.
But Christianity is not a religion of just the Father. It is based on the teachings of the Son who told us to love. Taught us to respect. And whose teachings human beings interpreted to mean they could do whatever they wanted to people who were different from them. That they could do anything in his name. I always wondered how it was possible that we were made in the image of God if we still carried so much evil within us. Could it be that God had some evil in him too? The Cathars for example were a group of heretics who lived between the 12th and 14th centuries who believed that the God of the Old Testament was actually the devil.
Isaiah 45:7 –I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
The devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was the one who sat on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The church I attended for most of my life had at least one preacher who believed that Allah was a demon. They believed that Muslims who said their prayers to Allah instead of to Jehovah were pledging allegiance to hell. That it was a denizen of hell whose symbolic presence resided in Mecca. That five times a day our dear brothers and sisters all over the world sold a little of their soul in the service of this servant of Satan. For this amongst other reasons I stopped going to that church. I was later told that during the referendum for our constitution they preached that people should not vote yes because it was all a ploy by Muslims who wanted to reproduce so heavily that they would make up the majority of our population and then convert the whole country to sharia law.
You see how it starts. I can. The process of radicalisation is not something that none of us has never been subjected to. The endless propaganda telling us that the people like us are right and that consequently everyone else is wrong.
When One Hundred and Forty Seven students were killed in Garissa I feel that some of the people whose teachings I ran away from felt vindicated. That some of the people who resisted these very teachings became slightly more indoctrinated. One Hundred and Forty Seven people died in our country not too long ago. They were shot down by people who held anger close to their heart. By people who had stopped believing that these One Hundred and Forty Seven were anything that deserved just a little consideration.
When that few people kill so many with bullets and not bombs do they become numb to what they are doing? Is there a point where the bloodlust clears for just a little bit and they get concerned with the mundane things that having a body means they must experience. Things like how heavy the gun is. How hard the trigger to pull. How hot the muzzle. How loud the bullets. How much the blood. All the blood. Does the blood start to distract them from their task. All that blood. Gallons spilled on the ground. The screams of people dying and people waiting to die. And all the blood, the blood on the floor, the blood clotting, the blood congealing and darkening. The blood becoming almost solid. The blood smelling because of all the dirt in the human body it transports back and forth. Do they get distracted by the blood? The way it sticks to their shoes and turns the dust they had carried in into mud. Does one of them almost slip and fall on all the blood as he rushes to stop somebody escaping. Does one of them get distracted by the terrible beauty of red rivers of ruby flowing all across the floor. Does the blood bother them when the bloodlust runs its course. When they stop and inhale a deep breath because all this killing must surely be tiring, do they then think of the blood. Of all the blood.
Or do they think about something else. For a person to do this he must be devout. For a person to come out of their body in the way that this is needed they must believe with all their souls in something larger than themselves. God, country, family. This is not an individual task. This is something done by a person with purpose otherwise they would have been made sick by all the blood and stopped.
It has been hard for me to comprehend that one hundred and forty seven people died.it has been hard for most Kenyans. Many of us have become numb to pains that should have us screaming. What happened is the kind of tragedy that should have us shell-shocked. The proper reaction to losing so many of our countrymen in one go should be one of disbelief and anger. Days of people walking around dazed and confused because things can never be the same again. It should be a day stuck in our minds. A date that we remember with ease but whose remembrance is painful and brings hurt of the most existential kind to our hearts. It should have its own name, a day of remembrance , of that time when we were unable to protect our people and allowed them to be slaughtered like sheep, like mice, like mosquitoes. A day of our failure. A day of sorrow. Like 9/11 was for Americans. But quick without making a reference to anything can you remember the date on which the Garissa Massacre happened? 2/4 that’s our date.
It’s not our only date though. If you Google the Garissa Massacre you will instantly be reminded that much worse things happened in the same place and we forgot. In 1980 a massacre with eerily similar parallels took place in the place known as Garissa. There was a sifting, a separation of people based on their ethnic heritage some were allowed to leave without being harmed. It occurred at an institution of learning. After it life moved on. In 1980 3,000 Somalis died because they were locked up in Garissa Primary School without food or water. Those who weren’t Somalis were let free.
Of course the next question when we hear about such huge numbers of dead is what terrorist organisation carried it out? In one fell swoop taking down numbers that even Boko Haram did not manage with their 2,000. I remember hearing 2,000 or so people had been killed in Nigeria by Boko Haram and that number was unimaginable. Well 3,000 people were killed by the Kenyan Government in Garissa Primary School at a time when the population of our country stood at 16.27 million.
To go back to the 9/11 parallel just to make it clear how important a day that should be in our history. The casualties of the 9/11 attacks were 3,000 people at a time when the population of their country was 285 million. 17.5 times the population of Kenya. To let it settle can you imagine the outrage of America if they had lost 52,550 people.
In Kenya though this is not taught in history books, this is the subject of independent historical inquiry. Something unimaginable that you have to imagine before you can find out about it.
The devil whoever he is resided in the hearts of those who could with such violence, anger and rage with such passion, faith and conviction kill One Hundred And Forty Seven students who had done them harm. The devil whoever he is also resides in the souls of those who could cold-bloodedly allow 3,000 human beings to starve to death, in the minds of those who gave the order, in the hands of those who enforced it.
Many religious books remind us that our actions have consequences.
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.-Numbers 14:18
Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. The children who lost their parents in the first Garissa Massacre are in their thirties and forties now. They are now men of wealth and position and influence in the society. They are people with a deep grievance against the government of Kenya and against the Kenyan people who turned their backs on them again and again.
This may be part of the answer I was seeking when I began writing this. I remembered my quote about Christianity about how words of love have only ever resulted in fields of corpses. I remembered all the Christian propaganda I get exposed to because most of the people I know are Christians. I remembered the intolerance and lack of understanding that lives in the words of many Christian leaders. I remembered all these things and wondered why there were not as many massacres in the name of Yahweh as there were in the name of Allah.
The difference lies in huge things like the fact of the Wagalla Massacre. I don’t know what the death of 3,000 of my community members at the hands of my government would do to me. The stories passed down of people crowded into this tiny space and forced to wait to die. To wait until death came down with a sickle and picked them off one by one, taking the sick and the ones who were not sick, taking the very hungry and the very thirsty, taking men and women, taking the very old and the very young indiscriminately until there was nobody left. When death was done with his task and the government and its agents left with a feeling of having done what was right of course those left behind were sure that the devil had visited them. That the acts done by an almost uniformly Christian government (fully Kenyan) using its almost uniformly Christian soldiers(fully Kenyan) was an act that deserved to be visited upon their children unto the third and fourth generation.
I have not lived my life in such a place. As such a person. Completely invisible and disposable. Many of the people I have grown up with have not. So when a preacher comes up and says that Allah is the devil or when a church preaches that Moslems want to reproduce and take over the country this is largely a theoretical sermon. Christians know the devil exists but not really. We haven’t seen him face to face. When a person who grew up in a place called Wagalla, a place that the devil visited barely 35 years ago is told that Yahweh is the devil he will take it more seriously. To him the devil is not a concept, the devil is not an idea. The devil is a time and a place. The devil is 1980 when the first Garissa Massacre happened. The devil is something and someone you can hurt, someone you can take up arms against. The devil is real.
I know that it is not that Christianity is the superior religion that there are less massacres by Christians. It’s not even that there are less massacres by Christians just less massacres directly attributed to the service of the Christian God. It is many things. It is also the fact that all those people were killed in the Wagalla Massacre just a few decades ago. It is the fact that until I sat down to write this I didn’t know it happened at Garissa Primary school. It is the fact of so much pain stretching back, so much inhumanity wrecking havoc, so much vengeance waiting to be served and so many things i will never understand. We are all soaked in blood. In all this blood and if we don’t make an effort to see it so that we can wash it away the smell of all this blood will stick to us forever.