On love and compassion, help refugees

By Bryan Eberly and By Bryan Eberly

These are trying times. Every time I watch the news or even just open my Facebook, I am bombarded by the sheer nastiness of the world around me. There just doesn’t seem to be any good parts of humanity in the spotlight.

And it becomes too easy for me to react to the negative things with fear, anger, hate and an attempt at ignorance.

I remember when I first heard about ISIS taking over parts of Iraq where I served in 2007. After everything we did in that country to try to bring peace and stability to the people there, to try to lead them from a dictatorship to a democracy, it was shocking and humbling to watch basically a gang of well-armed thugs undo it all.

It made me angry. It made me vengeful. It made me hateful. I brewed in a dark place for a while before I finally just shut myself off from it. I took the attitude of c’est la vie, and just accepted that there were just awful things happening outside my control. I became numb.

I react in much the same way every time I hear about ISIS claiming to attack a new area. Whether it be Dallas, Sydney, Paris, Beirut or Mali, I always become fervently full of ire and hate before I just close my eyes and go numb.

But recently, I had someone explain to me the process behind ISIS and their methods. I went over all that and summarized the lesson in my last column.

But then I left, all too quickly, with a message that we must be compassionate and understanding in these times and after these events. I apologize for not going further, but let me attempt that now.

It is easy to fall prey to the feelings of fear, anger, hate and vengeance before succumbing to just turning yourself off from it. But that is not what we as a people need to do right now.

We need to open our hearts and minds to the idea of compassion. Not to go all total hippie here, but sincerely, love is going to save the day here.

We know that ISIS is set on creating a division between Islam and the West. We know that they will do this by conjuring up every bad feeling the typical Westerner will have, and they will paint their attacks in such a way as to express the supposed true nature of Islam. In their minds, this will lead to an all out persecution against Muslims by the western world, thus presenting a false dichotomy to Muslims everywhere.

Essentially, “join us or face persecution.” This is the only way a writhing and violent gang can recruit members. And their messages of fear, anger, hate and vengeance are no better than the ones they pull out of the western world.

We cannot let them succeed, and the only tool when hate is used against more hate is love.

Love is understanding. Love is help. Love is putting aside petty differences between people and focusing on keeping our primary connection in mind. We are all human.

We are all subject to the same pains. What is capable of hurting me can hurt you. What makes you bleed will make me bleed.

To make this point practical, love is letting in Syrian refugees and protecting our country’s mosques and Muslims.

The latest calls to limit or ban refugees entrance to the nation (from all sides, by the way), as well as the new general animosity toward Muslims and their worship sites, have been ridiculous and need to stop immediately. I even heard that a few prominent celebrities supposedly advised a monitoring system and identification badges for Muslims. While I have also heard these people backtrack and deny any connection to this idea at all, the very fact that the idea was even mentioned out loud is enough to raise my eyebrows and clean my gun.

So, let’s concentrate on the opposite. We need to open our homes to those who need help. We need to open our minds to those who carry a varying opinion on the mechanics of the world. We need to open our hands and use them to protect the places where people worship.

Notice please that I wrote that paragraph without saying “refugee” or “Muslim”. I did that because the world is not split in two as ISIS proclaims it to be. The world is not the West vs. Islam. It just isn’t. And never will be.

We should turn to love and compassion and look on each other with empathy and warmth, rather than suspicion and fear.

Don’t let ISIS win. We’ve dealt with enough pain. Let’s heal for a while.

Respond to Bryan at

[email protected]