Hear or download this post (mp3 file – 3:21): A Million Miles from Heaven
The story was buried on page A15 in Sunday’s Washington Post, but of all the stories I read before my afternoon nap it was the one that haunted my dreams. The opening sentence summed it up like a coroner’s report: “MOGADISHU, Somalia, Nov. 1 — A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery.”
A thirteen-year-old girl. Stoned. To death.
The story continued: “Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Monday in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismaayo, Amnesty International reported.”
By dozens of men. In a stadium. Packed with 1,000 spectators.
“The Islamist militia in charge of Kismaayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights group said. Initial local news reports said that Duhulow was 23, but her father told Amnesty International that she was 13. Some of the Somali journalists who first reported the killing later told the human rights group that they had reported she was 23 based on her physical appearance.”
The fact that a 13-year-old girl was stoned to death is horrifying in and of itself, but the circumstanes make it more horrifying still. Chief among these, for me, is the image of a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators, watching as dozens of men stone to death a 13-year-old girl wrongfully accused of adultery. Wasn’t there anyone among those thousand who stood up and shouted “NO!”? Can a thousand people sit and watch quietly while an act of murderous injustice is performed?
I keep saying that at Richmond’s First Baptist Church we’re trying to “bring heaven to earth,” and I keep encouraging people to look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven and go to work there. But so much of the time what I see around First Baptist looks heavenly. I can almost convince myself that our work here is done. But if I walk around the neighborhood for a while I can see that we’re not done yet. And if I drive into some other, poorer parts of the city I can see that heaven’s a long way away. And when I read an article like this one I see that there are some parts of the world where heaven is so far from earth people must wonder if it will ever come. I think of that little girl’s father, sobbing into his pillow over his daughter’s senseless death, and I think I know why Jesus had to die on the cross—because evil like this won’t be overcome with a few minutes’ tidying-up:
It’s going to take everything we’ve got.
This photo was taken by John Watson, and has been one of the most requested photos on my blog.