MH 17-Light a candle rather than curse the darkness

Jul 20, 2014

In the horror and sense of evil we all feel about the downing of MH17 how should we respond?  Perhaps out best response is summed up in the above exhortation which is attributed to Peter Benenson the founder of Amnesty International. The candle cycled by barb wire has become the emblem of Amnesty. The quote was also used by Adlai Stevenson in a speech in the UN in tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt

As a Christian I find such horror and pervasive evil hard to understand or explain. We particularly respond to MH 17 because of the large number of Australians who have been wantonly killed. But at the same time more have been killed in Gaza. And even more are killed almost every day in Syria and Iraq. Evil, violence and injustice are pervasive.

That evil is personal as well as national and global. We each struggle with our own selfishness and fear.

But we also have what Abraham Lincoln described as our better angels of generosity and concern for our neighbour. And that internal struggle between good and evil, between our better angels and our darker angels is played out in our wider community and the wider wold. We are affected by what happens even in remote Ukraine.

Lighting candles seems to me to be best response or perhaps the only way in the long term not just for our own mental and moral health but to shift the balance against violence and injustice. There are many small and perhaps even large things that we can do; helping asylum seekers and our  indigenous people; the homeless; the poor of the world; advocacy for the vulnerable; resistance to the violent and the warlike and support for peacemakers. Cursing the darkness or wringing our hands is not helpful either for us or others.

My father often told me to “stop complaining and do something about it”. I try to respond that way, inadequate as it is. We must take personal responsibility for the wrongs in the world. I see no other sensible way but to keep lighting candles.

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