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Junaid Jahangir Headshot

Would Obama Issue an Apology for "Other" Children?

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At the interfaith vigil in Connecticut, U.S. President Obama, fighting back tears, expressed overwhelming grief, as a parent, on the killing of 20 innocent little children.

In contrast, columnist George Monbiot noted that President Obama has remained silent over the 168 children killed by American drone attacks along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Likewise, Professor Vijay Prashad has noted that the White House has neither issued an apology nor called for an end to such tragedies.

Monbiot referenced a study, which indicated that many parents afraid of drone attacks -- one of which killed 69 children in 2006 -- along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border have withdrawn their traumatized children from schools. He also mentioned that such casualties, termed as "bug splats" by drone operators, involve children without names, memorials or candles for they belong to the "other."

As someone inspired by Christian teachings, will President Obama not heed Jesus who taught what reward is there if you love only those who love you? Likewise, should he not draw wisdom from a devoutly Christian Tolkein's words that it is not great power but small acts of kindness and love that keep darkness at bay?

The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu empathized with the U.S. President over the murders in the Newtown school by stating that Israelis have also experienced such cruel acts of slaughter. In contrast, under his leadership, at least 30 Palestinian children were killed in November. With fighter jets and explosions scourging Gaza, Palestinian parents had to calm their children through the assault.

Neither President Obama nor Prime Minister Netanyahu made similar remarks as they did for the recent Connecticut shooting. In fact, President Obama, while remaining silent on the horrors perpetrated on the Palestinian children, simply stated that Israel had the right to defend itself. Journalist Glenn Greenwald has mentioned that President Obama has even joked about predator drones killing teenagers.

Unfortunately, journalist Gideon Levy has noted that in Israel, Palestinians are not depicted as human beings. It is perhaps why, three years ago, an Israeli woman felt free to yell at peacenik Dr. Abu Al Aish, author of I Shall Not Hate, falsely accusing him of harboring weapons, when he had just lost three daughters to an Israeli Defence Force attack.

Israelis, of all people, would recognize how throughout history Jews have been depicted as the "other." In the 16th century, Shakespeare depicted this disregard for the "other" through Shylock in the Merchant of Venice.

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

In Pakistan, a blogger expressed how some Pakistanis have voiced their concerns on Gaza, while remaining silent on the killing of about 6000 Shia children since the mid 1980s. Freelance writer Zahir Janmohamed has noted how Shia Muslims are treated as the "other," stating that even during a funeral some Sunnis started lecturing Shias that their burial rites were un-Islamic.

Likewise, the plight of Ahmadi Muslims goes without much notice, even when their children are expelled from schools for following their faith.

Pakistani Muslims who come out in loud protests against blasphemy but who choose to remain silent over heinous human rights abuses against minorities seem to have ignored the Islamic emphasis on human dignity that lies above any faith affiliation.

Is not the universal message of "love one another" echoed in all three Abrahamic faiths? Is not the mandate of the Abrahamic faiths to overcome our human frailties to reach out to the "other"?

President Obama has stated that, even if there were one step to be taken, there is an obligation to try to save another child from harm. Likewise, Israeli President Peres has stated that no crime is more heinous than the killing of a child.

However, when will Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders go beyond themselves and truly express concern not just for their own children but also those of "others"? When will they cease to use great power that only perpetuates more evil and instead keep darkness at bay with acts of kindness and love?

Reverend Dr. Nancy Steeves of the Southminster Steinhauer United Church (SSUC) always reminds her congregation that one does not need to be a member of any Church to be welcome at the SSUC table. In our Church, no one is a child of a lesser god for the congregation sings, week after week, to echo that there is no "other."

Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still, let this be our song, no one stands alone, standing side by side, draw the circle wide.

One can only hope that Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders can join in this chorus.

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