As I write this on Sunday 20th August 2008 I have just watched a BBC programme “Sunday Life”. On the programme they covered ostensibly worthy issues such as, faiths getting together in Leeds, where some of the 7/7 London bombers came from, visited by one of the victims, Gill Hicks, who had lost both her legs below the knee and visits organised by a rabbi for people in their mid-to late teens to visit Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp.
On the faith coming together issue I would say they are wrong to be non-inclusive towards non-believers, aetheists and agnostics. While Islam believes Christ was not the son of God and Christians believe he was, a rational unbeliever can only see an intent to confuse or create schizophrenia in the nation. God is said to confound the wise and this sort of “union of the incompatible” seems just that, an attempt to confound those who ask “Why don’t you just all admit violence by religions toward others is wrong, the bombers were wrong and neither of you actually have a clue as to whether what you believe is true or not?”
On the visits to Auschwitz I would say this is again an attempt to confound the wise. Millions did die in Auschwitz, but far more died in Russia and around the rest of the world. The walk into the one remaining gas chamber was commented on by a lady of Jewish descent, Georgia Slowe, who would ask, ”How could people be so inhuman? and some young people, Matthew Reay and Chiang Rosser commented that it “..was completely evil” and that the visit “made it personal”. But 35,000 people are estimated to have died in the furnace of the Dresden fire bombing, burnt alive, not gassed first then the dead bodies burnt. You could argue the Nazis were showed compassion on that basis. Dresden, Hiroshima and many other cities during that conflict and of course the napalmed villages of Vietnam are the real furnaces of living flesh. Probably about 45 million people have died in the United Kingdom since the second world war too. Are those children, being taken there by the rabbi ,being encouraged to give those deaths equal consideration?
This is the nature of suffering in this world, which Buddha talks about...’all life is suffering’. Over the years since I was a child the nature of suffering appears to have been hijacked to an extent by the issue of Nazi concentration camps, that being made a focus point for concern while millions of children, every year, die from preventable disease and malnutrition and the world leaders do nothing about it. Species of animals are also being exterminated. As those who have read this site fully will understand, I do not totally believe Buddha since Darwin shows that survival is accorded those who adapt to the changing world environment. The focus on Jewish suffering seems to be an attempt to manipulate human compassion to ignore the suffering of other humans and creatures. This may be a survival strategy from the Buddha denying Rabbi who might believe that his people are more likely to integrate with other communities if he can pull at the heart strings of those communities.
The lament for humanity is a technique you can train your mind to. Whenever you hear a religious lament, such as that sung by the Rabbi during the visits to Aushwitz, or hear a Christian chorister sing a song like.............................
Let these laments move you, as they probably will, but then reflect on the tens of thousands of years of mankind’s evolution and the suffering and death which has come to billions in that time. Reflect the music but change the words to include, as the object of the lament, all conscious life that has ever lived on this planet over the millions of years that it has existed. This exercise may help you to overcome any prejudice against the prejudice of the lament and also help you understand the compassion of the Buddha.