There is a shameless cruelty in our societies when it comes to acknowledging other people's suffering. Either we shy away or refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own and/or it amounts to infidelity to our own cause.
Unless we reload our hearts with empathy, and feel the pain and suffering of others, each one of us will continue to dwell in silos and the genocides will continue to happen. As Martin Niemoller wrote in his eternal poem, the essence of which is; first they came for communists, I did not do a thing because I was not one of them; then they came for Jews, and I wasn't one, and finally when all were wiped out, they came for me, and there was no one to defend me.
One of the most popular dialogues from a 1958 Bollywood movie "Yahudi" was, Tumhara khoon, khoon aur mera Khoon pani? -- "Your blood is blood and my blood is water? An immortal dialogue uttered by a Jew in the film, Yehudi as it is called, when the Roman emperor freezes when he learns that his son Marcus cheated Yehudi's daughter. In plain English, the inhumanity in us does not value other people as we value ourselves.
By nature many of us are disgustingly selfish, nothing but our own interest matters to us. Do you recall standing in a food buffet line at a friend's wedding, a family or a community gathering? Someone said that the food may be short, but yet, the guy in front of you piled up his plate, or may be the one, knowing well that there a lot of people behind you, and some may not get the food.
It's Not Easy
Those who build bridges understand the experiences we have encountering in organizing the sixth annual reflections on the Holocaust and genocides in Dallas on Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Unity Church of Dallas on Forest Lane. There are nearly 50 genocides in the last century, and it is humanly impossible to talk about all of them in one sitting, the selfish attitudes displayed by each group of people is amazing, each one thinks his blood is blood and others blood is water that can be ignored.
Way back in 2006, a Muslim shouts at me in a public meeting, "Why are you commemorating Holocaust of Jews? Why don't you commemorate the Holocaust of Palestinians?" I countered, all of this should be done, why don't you do it? He was belligerent; he was one of the loose mouths and not a doer. Indeed, we plan to attend to every one of the atrocity in the next few years.
Another Muslim knocked God out of his throne, and chose to declare, "If you don't talk about Palestinians, you are not a Muslim." They don't care to read the work that is being done for both Israelis and Palestinians. The Huffington Post has published many articles on the topic and the other work is at www.IsraelPalestineDialogue.com
Another one writes, "You are writing about the holocaust of Jews, you forgot what Stalin did?" My instant response was, "Did you forget the genocides of gays?" And you also forgot about the genocides of Native Americans, African Americans over the Atlantic... the list is a long one. Can I accuse you, that did you did not care about others?
We were criticized and asked to remove the phrase "A Muslim initiative" from the publicity material. Instead of recognizing the effort to build bridges, they were bent on not giving credit to Muslims for extending the hand of understanding. Please remember, it was not the Jews, it is the few individuals who wore the label Jews. I have known the community closely through strong interactions and conflicts, rather than superficial salaams and shaloms. Indeed, I have a whole book to write about how to improve Jewish Muslim relationships for a better society.
A few years ago a Jewish speaker canceled his speech at the event in the last minute because we were addressing the Gaza massacre as one of the seven items; he considered it anti-Israel and did not participate. However, my Jewish friends attended the event, and called him back to let him know that it was not about Israel, but about the human suffering and the brutal inhumanity in all of us. Most people don't want to face the truth, that someone from their own tradition is capable of murdering and massacring people.
No one should be ashamed of what fellow humans from your group do, what you should be ashamed of is your own attitude toward another human.
Several of my Hindu friends have jumped on me for not including the plight of Kashmiri Pundits, they are so obsessed with their own that others don't matter to them. We have mentioned about the plight of Kashmiri Pundits at least three times in five years, those who criticize don't come to the event, unless it is "about them." We need to stand up for everyone, and certainly stand up for others before we do for our own.
A friend writes another friend's quote, "The question was why Mike forgot 2002 Gujarat Holocaust & Genocide that was lot bigger and wider than 1984 Sikh Holocaust & Genocide." I did not forget, nor will I ever forget any genocide. In April 2002, rallies were held for Gujarat in down town Dallas, when Shabnam Hashmi came to Dallas, she was hosted to show the documentaries of that genocide. If the event is dear to the people, they should express their love and commemorate it. We will do our share; each event will take its turn.
Indians and Pakistanis
A few Pakistanis think that talking about 1971 Bangladesh genocide is an Indian conspiracy to defame Pakistan, and they resort to attacks on India instead of understanding the suffering of the people.
The Indians on the other hand think that talking about Sikh genocides amounts to defaming India. "Why the hell do you want to bring this up; it's done with." It is not done with, the wounds are still open.
Please remember, there is a fraction of a percent of people in each group, whether religious, ethnic, nationalistic or racial, who tend to ignore facts.
Let's learn to understand the selfishness embedded in us, if we can stand up for others, particularly for strangers, then there is a greater self nurtured within us, making us a better human to live with peace and tranquility. We have to stand up for women's right and the rights of minorities and voiceless as a part of securing the future. Each one of us has to do our share of good to the world around us, for our own good at the end. We have to stand up for others, that is the right thing to do.
Standing in line (food or anything) to wait for your turn is one of the most human things to do. It is a sign of acceptance of equal rights of others, and others needs as much as yours. We have a list of about 50 genocides, and each year we will focus on a few. More than likely, you will find yourselves guilty of not listening or paying attention to other's tragedy but your own. Slap yourselves, if you do not think other's plight is not as important as your own.
Every year we have reflected on our failings, massacres, genocides and the Holocaust. This year, we will focus on the Sikh genocide of 1984. Dr. Amarjit Singh, will deliver the key note address on the topic. Mr. Hasan Mahmud will share about the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971, Dr. Petra Weldes will talk about the effects of stereotyping on the societies, and Kelly Obazee will reflect on current massacres around the world. I will speak about the Holocaust, our anchor event, and the need to take a stand against oppression of others. Please visit www.HolocaustandGenocides.com for details, the event is an initiative of the Sikh Gurdwaras of North Texas, Foundation for Pluralism and World Muslim Congress.
I submit to you, that the human atrocities are pent up frustrations and unresolved issues that reach a boiling point and explode into massacres and genocides. As civilized societies, we need to bring a closure to the issues through forgiveness, apology and restoration of justice. The least we can do in the process of healing is to know and acknowledge every one's pain.