A Pogrom in Islamdom

2013 has been the year of the burning church. Throughout Islamdom churches burn. 

It started before 2013. For over a decade I have seen my Coptic patient from Egypt beside himself with grief and anxiety as he watches his relatives trapped in fear, paralysed like a kangaroo doe in my headlights, unable to resolve – to flee or to stay?
He sits, this large man, in my consulting room and nurses his ulcer. Gaps, lacunae of silence in the consulting room and his eyes fill with tears as the silence falls and swells.
At present Egyptian Copts burn bright and hot enough to hit our papers. Syrian Christians burn.
Elsewhere, in Iraq, the oldest Christian community in the middle east convulses. In 1991, Christians in Iraq numbered 1.3 million people; today they number 300,000 to 500,000. Catholic Chaldeans, Nestorians, Orthodox, almost all Iraqi Christians are ethnic Assyrians. Assyrians speak Aramaic, lingua franca of Jesus. From time to time I meet a Christian from Iraq in the Children’s Hospital where I work. When I address him and his family in my rudimentary Aramaic (which is, of course, an inherited language for any Jew who has ever opened the Talmud), their faces open in disbelief, in joy, in homecoming from linguistic exile.
(While liberal Christian groups turn a blind ear to the slaughter of fellow Christians there exists but one country in the middle east where, as Gabriel Nadaf, a priest, declares, “we feel secure”. Guess which country.)
Last week 34 Assyrians died in a church bombing in Baghdad. In 2010 a series of ‘suicide bombings’ (call sign of the hero martyr, history’s adolescent crying LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!) killed 58 people. There have been 71 church bombings reported in Iraq since 2004.
So much, so normal, so historically unremarkable. So much blood: thirty four here, fifty eight there. Have you seen how much blood there is in the body of but one human being? (I have. Cain did. God called to him saying: “The bloods of your brother call out to Me from the earth.”
Why bloods – in the plural? Because, explains the commentator Rashi, no-one had seen a human die before Cain. No-one knew how much blood
there was in one human brother.)
We know now about the blood of the human person. We cannot plead ignorance.
I remember another time – it was recent, only November 1938 – when houses of worship burned, when the bloods of my brothers cried out.
I remember the shameful silence of the decent civilised world. I remember the silence of churches, governments, communities in Australia
following the great pogrom that was the night of broken glass. I remember how my people was forgotten. I remember the silence.
I remember William Cooper and his Aborigines Advancement League raising the sole protest in Australia against the pogrom.
There are pogroms occurring throughout Islamdon. There is a great silence here.
Do we need to wait for another Australian Aboriginal leader to awaken this nation, to rouse its parliaments, its churches, synagogues and mosques, its noisy Boycotters, its pious Divestors, its smug Sanctioners, to cry: “I am my brother’s keeper?”

3 thoughts on “A Pogrom in Islamdom

  1. PS: Should have included religion, for Bruce’s sake, towards the end of the first para above.

    PPS: Request to webmaster – please allow registered “followers” to edit and in some cases delete their own posts. Oh, and take away the feint ruled with margin for the sake of ease of reading. Thank you.


  2. I am thinking of youthful idealism and its shrunken, wrinkled appearance in middle age. Why can’t people be nicer to each other and more concerned for their equally-created brother? As if political Islam follows the people and not the other way round. Why do they do such awful things to the “other”, that beloved trope of self-admiring and safe Australians? Answer: first, because they can, second because they are more determined, or as Nietszche puts it, their Will to Power is stronger than ours. Not “their narrative” or “their human rights” or the “righteousness” of their cause. As Mahmoud Abbas said recently, “I cannot change my narrative”.

    Remember the scene in Apocalypse Now in which the modern Kurtz (Marlon Brandon) explains to his finder Willard (Martin Sheen, post heart-attack) why “we” cannot hope win against the Viet Cong.

    Until the good people of Australia feel less safe (what shape will that ineluctable event take?) and Kurtz comes unto Willard’s gates instead of the other way round?

    Well done hg – a needful piece, despite the fragility of its bridge of words over the abyss that (Nietzsche again) “looks into you”.


  3. For what reason do we have what is called The United Nations?? couldn’t we all insist THEY take action on behalf of ALL member nations?. Because I’m atheist I could say, ( there are NO true religions, and they, and a mythical god, have caused the deaths of countless humans) but I guess it won’t help to say that! as if it wasn’t religion, it would be some other stupid MALE human reason for conflict! if you get my drift! Let’s all realize we humans are all we’ve got, cut out this tower of babel rubbish and get together. Oh Yeah! I wish.


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