A Million Miles from Heaven

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. 


3 thoughts on “A Million Miles from Heaven

  1. It is both sad and frightening that we live in a world in which some people are not only unmoved by such and event, but some actually consider it to be justice. We cannot judge the legal systems of other countries by our North American sensibilities, but neither can we turn blind eyes to such oppression. In the United States, we have long been insulated from the brutality and injustice that still thrives in many places. I do not know how to go about bringing heaven to earth in those places. I only know that we dare not ignore the need.

    Thank you, Jim, for reminding us, through this story, of the liberty and justice that we enjoy as well as the need to work toward securing the same for those who cannot even speak of it, let alone secure it for themselves, except at the risk of their personal safety.

  2. Hello Jim,

    I don’t know you, but I was doing a google search for images of “Heaven” and your image here showed up. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m going state my opinion. They are a different religion, and who are we to say it’s wrong, and that is their form of ‘justice’? I don’t agree that she should have stoned. That’s the way it is.

    We HAVE to see things like this, to truly appreciate beauty of life. This past February, I was in Ottawa at the an award ceremony, where I heard of a girl at the time she was ELEVEN years old who saved her 85 year old grandfather from drowning. Being there I also heard many other amazing acts of bravery.

    It’s saddens me that I’m bring my little boy up in a world where it is sociably acceptable for a 13 year old to be stoned to death. But I know there are people out there who can do those selfless acts of bravery, it gives me hope that he’ll be okay in todays world.

  3. I am a muslim and its equally shocking and painful for me. The punishment for adultery is not stoning to death but 100 stripes. and punishment of rape is stoning to death. It the poor girl was raped than she shouldnt have been touched rather she should have been provided protection. and if she couldnt prove her case than she should have been hit 100 stripes and allowed to live and have equal status in society. The fact that nobody stood up for her is really worrying and sad. May Allah give her justice in the hereafter and also the evil doers.
    The fact that this story was published by washington post also makes me wonder that why on earth are they interested in somalia. Wat about the thousands of women and girls who are raped in america are denied justice and there rapers suffer only a minor punishment which do not teach them any lesson and they walk freely on earth. Think abt it

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