By Sahar Aziz
Now that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects have been killed or captured, wild speculation is spreading about the link between their motives, their Chechen identity and their Muslim faith. All the while, the memories of the victims are eclipsed in shadow.
To distract from grieving for the victims mars the legacies they left behind. And while the suspects are worthy of our attention, the lives of the victims have much more to teach us about this tragedy than the criminals who perpetrated it.
In particular, the message left by the youngest victim, Martin Richard, reminds us of the burden we all bear to stop such senseless violence here at home as well as abroad.
I never met Martin, but I know the joy that an 8-year-old brings to a family and his community. I know that his sweet smile and trusting eyes inspired his parents and teachers to do whatever they could to make the world a better place for him and his generation as they one day take the reins to lead our nation.
As I read his message, “No more hurting people. Peace,” I believe he possessed the innate sense of justice for humanity that resides at the core of most people and all of the world’s major religions.
The wisdom of his youth reminds us that we must all commit to peace not just through our words, but our actions. Like children all over the world, Martin had an instinctive compassion for others. The hope in his eyes reminds us that we must retain our faith in the human spirit to reject violence and pursue peace.
No matter where we live in the world, all of our children are precious. And they each deserve to be safe and free to thrive.
Every time I see the picture of Martin, I cannot help but think of my own son, indeed of all of our sons. I think of my neighbors’ sons down the street and my cousins’ sons in the Middle East. I know that, in a gathering, they would gleefully play together, go on treasure hunts and eat more ice cream than their stomachs can handle. And when it came time to draw, each child, whether his name is Martin or Mohamed, would write the same message on his poster: “No more hurting people. Peace.”
We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future. The Boston bombings will surely be remembered in our history books as a tragedy — but how the event affects us is within our control.
Will it be a day that drives fear and suspicion and distrust or a day that strengthens our resolve to stand together as Americans? Will it unite us as members of humanity or divide us along religious or ethnic lines? The goal of terror is to spread fear and create division. Our goal must be the opposite. We have the power to reject racial, ethnic or religious division of any kind.
Martin has shown us the way. It’s up to us to decide if we will overcome our baser selves and listen to his message of peace.
This article was published by The Star-telegram on April 23,2013. Read it here.