Good Friday and The Cranberries in my head

The keywords  – Ireland, The Cranberries, Good Friday and Jesus – are not equal in importance but they are all part of my story.

I am a big fan of Ireland! I have never lived there (my brother has, my friends and close relatives do) but I have always been fascinated by it. The Celtic art, the history, the music, the land, the people. No, let’s put the hospitality first! Through marriage I even inherited a family name that is well-known in Ireland. Lansdowne road, Lansdowne rugby club and so on.  My American husband is an ‘Irish wanna-be’.

I am a big fan of 90’s rock bands! The Cranberries, Pearl Jam, Jesus Jones and Nirvana to name just a few. While living in Southeast Asia, I discovered how much Asians like to sing cover songs and I cannot count how many times I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirits” or “Zombie“, And every time I heard someone sing “Zombie” in open cafe, bar or street corner, I could not help but think, “They probably have no idea. What if they understood what the Troubles in Northern Ireland were?”

When I first heard this song I did not pay attention to the lyrics either. At the time it was just another popular rock song with great female vocals. We tried to sing as angry and aggressive as Dolores O’Riordan because we felt it was a protest song. But protesting against what? And what is this zombie in your head?

“Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken

But you see it’s not me
It’s not my family
In your head, in your
Head they are fighting

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie”

This song came to my mind recently! Last week I wrote about Syria and my words felt so inadequate, small and flat.  Innocent children keep dying in this war and I hear this angry and aggressive voice  singing again “And the violence caused such silence, Who are we mistaken?”

Here is the important part – I am also a big fan of Jesus of Nazareth! This week Christians around the world are celebrating and remembering the events that are the cornerstone of our faith . For me it has everything to do with what I see around. Borrowing the words of a Croat theologian Miroslav Volf, “A genuinely Christian reflection on social issues must be rooted in the self-giving love of the divine Trinity as manifested on the cross of Christ.” To many people the cross is an offensive symbol but I think of it as a scandal. This kind of humiliation and seeming defeat is the ultimate scandal. Jesus gives himself for the others but the violence does not stop. It takes his life and the powers-to-be seem unshaken.

But there is no way around the cross. There is no modern or post-modern solution to our or any age. M. Volf thinks that modernity creates “culture of social hope” and post-modernity creates “culture of endurance”. Jesus creates neither. Our world is healed by the “weakness” and “foolishness” of the self-giving love.

Going back to the Cranberries and Northern Ireland, I am also a big fan of Good Friday Agreement! What a beautiful name to have for a reconciliation process! Next year it will be 20 years since it was agreed in Belfast on April 10, 1998. Again I am speaking as an outsider who has neither lived through the violence nor faced the challenges and the walls that still exist. But I have much hope and faith and the people in Northern Ireland show us all something crucial.

Our world desperately needs Good Friday agreements. Unless we want to keep singing, “In your head, in your head… zombie, zombie… du, du, du, du”

Cranberries

The Cranberries (photos from internet)

 

This one goes out to Brussels

So, this week I was away from the Internet for a few days and quite enjoyed it. No Donald Trump, no Apple and FBI, no crisis, no war, no bad news… actually no news. I was teaching in a remote place on Thailand – Myanmar border, surrounded by farms, villages and beautiful mountains. I enjoyed the sound of roosters, dogs barking and some of my new friends singing while they are taking a shower or working outside. All I had to worry about was making sure my mosquito net was fully tucked in at night.

Whenever I am away from the Internet for more than three days while traveling, my greatest fear is that someone in my family will get hurt or even die and I will find out much later. I make sure my relatives have our phone number in Thailand or wherever but they still prefer to contact me through social media. Little frustrating but this is how it goes.

Life is a mysterious thing with lots of irony. I left my peaceful surroundings to find out that indeed somebody has died. Not in my family but in many other families. People in Belgium and other countries have lost their loved ones because of a senseless act of violence. Even the families of the suicide bombers have lost their loved ones – these guys were somebody’s sons and brothers and cousins. Evil does not discriminate, it destroys everyone in its path. It has no preferred race, gender or religion.

Another irony was that during those days I was teaching about peace building and reconciliation. Even using Europe Union as an example of peace and stability and how in 2012 it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “over six decades [having] contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” Of course, I told my students that Europeans are not perfect and there are many issues and challenges but we have come a long way from being a continent of constant wars and feuds.

I really did not want to hear such bad news. Not from Brussels or anywhere else. Not from Istanbul, not from Ankara, not from Baghdad, not from Paris, not from cities in Pakistan or Nigeria or Yemen. Each place where people experience this kind of evil, is traumatized and the scars remain. Life is not the same anymore…

Life is not the same for people in Belgium. It is not the same to go to the metro and to think that so many people did not reach the next station. Did not reach their job, their school, their family. It will not be the same to go back to Brussels airport and to think that the anticipation of travel and joy of having a vacation turned out to be ‘the wrong place at the wrong time.’

I am very sorry. Words fall short at such a time as this.

But I am also more than ever determined to continue to walk the road of peace. I do not mean being naive or singing “We are the world, we are the children” and proclaiming that some kind of positive thinking will take these evil things away. Evil is real and people make really evil choices. At the same time I will not join those who will find the fix-it-all solution in violence and declare “Nuke them all!”

Many have already written and many others will write articles and expert opinions about Belgium. There is plenty of blame to go around and people who are most affected will deal with their grief in many ways.

I don’t know if this was planned on Easter week or it was simply a chosen date. It does not matter. But it matters to me that Easter events from so long ago deal with exactly this kind of human experience. The Light came into the darkness and there was a moment when the darkness celebrated a victory. But its victory was short lived.

The Light is risen indeed. It is back with a universe-changing kind of force and the first words we –  the frightened, the bruised, the hopeless, the grieving – hear is “Do not be afraid. Peace be with you!”

12

Title photo from the Internet; this one is mine.

Latviski:

Tas nenotiek pārāk bieži, ka varu atpūsties no interneta, bet pagājušajā nedēļā tādas bija vairākas dienas. Nekāda Donalda Trampa, nekādu strīdu starp Apple un ASV drošības dienestiem, nekādu karu, nekādu sliktu ziņu… vienkārši nekādu ziņu. Man bija jāpasniedz lekcijas nomaļā ciematā netālu no Taizemes – Mjanmas robežas, kur apkārt ir tikai lauki, mazi miestiņi un džungļiem klāti kalni. Varēju klausīties vistu kladzināšanā, suņu rejās un manu draugu dziesmās, kamēr viņi strādā vai mazgājas. Vienīgais, par ko bija jāuztraucas vakaros, vai odu tīkls virs gultas ir kārtīgi noslēgts.

Pārbraucienu un darba laikā, kad neesmu tikusi pie interneta ilgāk kā trīs dienas, visvairāk uztraucos par to, ka kāds mans radinieks varētu ciest negadījumā vai pēkšņi nomirt, un es to uzzinātu krietni vēlāk. (Esmu bijusi līdzīgā situācijā.) Prombūtnē no Latvijas vienmēr iedodu radiem savu telefona numuru Taizemē vai kur citur, bet vienalga viņi parasti komunicē caur soctīkliem. Tas mazliet kaitina, bet ko padarīsi.

Dzīvē ir daudz noslēpumu un ironijas. Es atstāju savu ‘miera ostu’ pierobežā un, atgriežoties pilsētā, uzzināju, ka kāds tiešām ir miris. Tikai ne manā ģimenē. Cilvēki Beļģijā un citās valstīs ir zaudējuši savus mīļos caur briesmīgu vardarbību. Arī pašnāvnieku spridzinātāju ģimenes ir zaudējušas savējos mīļos – šie puiši bija kādam dēli, brāļi un brālēni. Ļaunums nav diskrimējošs; tas iznīcina visu savā ceļā. Tas nešķiro pēc rases, dzimuma vai reliģijas.

Visdziļākā ironija man personīgi bija tas, ka manas lekcijas bija veltītas miera celšanas un izlīguma tēmai. Es pat izmantoju Eiropas Savienību kā piemēru, un minēju 2012. gadā piešķirto Nobela Miera prēmiju  par miera un izlīguma, demokrātijas un cilvēktiesību veicināšanu Eiropā. Protams, es skaidroju studentiem, ka eiropieši nav perfekti, un mums ir daudz problēmu un izaicinājumu, bet mēs tomēr esam pielikuši daudz pūliņu, lai pārveidotu šo karojošo kontinentu par reģionu, kur valda miers.

Es tiešām negribēju dzirdēt šādas sliktas ziņas. Ne no Briseles, ne no citurienes. Ne no Stambulas, ne no Ankāras, ne no Bagdādes, ne no Parīzes, ne no pilsētām Pakistānā vai Nigērijā vai Jemenā. Katra vieta, kas piedzīvo šādu ļaunumu, ir dziļi traumēta, un šīs rētas paliek. Dzīve vairs nav tāda kā agrāk…

Dzīve Beļģijā ir mainījusies. Tagad, ejot uz metro staciju, tu iedomāsies par tiem, kuri nesasniedza savu nākamo pieturu. Kuri nesasniedza savu darbu, vai skolu, vai mājas. Braucot uz Briseles lidostu tu iedomāsies par tiem, kuriem ceļojuma prieka un brīvdienu baudas vietā bija tā nelaime atrasties “neīstajā vietā un neīstajā brīdī.”

Man patiešām ļoti žēl. Nav vārdu, kas to var līdz galam aprakstīt.

Bet man ir vēl viena reakcija. Šī traģēdija man palīdz vēl vairāk un skaidrāk apņemties turpināt savu darbu miera celšanas jomā. Es negribu, lai mēs būtu naivi, vai vienkārši, rokās sadevušies, dziedātu dziesmiņas, ka esam “pasaule un pasaules bērni”, vai sludinātu, ka pozitīvā domāšana palīdzēs atvairīt visus ļaunos uzbrukumus, vai arī par tiem nedomāt. Ļaunums ir reāls, un cilvēki izvēlas darīt ļaunas lietas. Tajā pašā laikā es nepievienošos otrai nometnei, kas atrod vienkāršu vardarbīgu risinājumu – uzspridzināt viņus visus!

Daudzi jau ir izteikušies, un vēl daudzi rakstīs savas domas un ekspertu atzinumus par Beļģiju, par Eiropu. Tiks meklēti vainīgie, tiks meklētas atbildes, un cilvēki, kuri cieta vistiešākajā veidā, izrādīs savas sēras dažādos veidos.

Es nezinu, vai šie uzbrukumi tika plānoti Lieldienu nedēļas laikā ar nolūku, vai arī tas bija vienkārši izdevīgs datums. Tam nav nozīmes. Bet nozīme ir patiesībai, ka vēsturiskie Lieldienu notikumi aprakstīja mūsu cilvēces pieredzi. Gaisma nāca tumsā, un bija brīdis Golgātas kalnā, kad tumsa svinēja uzvaru. Bet šī uzvara bija ļoti īsa.

Gaisma ir patiesi augšāmcēlusies. Tā atgriezās ar spēku, kas izmaina visu universu, un pirmie vārdi, ko mēs, nobijušies, sāpināti, cerību un ticību labā uzvarai zaudējuši un sērās, izdzirdam, ir “Nebaidieties! Miers ar jums!”