Monday, March 22, 2010

One Person with Courage is the Majority

As I was Googling for a pic to include with yesterdays post, I stumbled across recent accounts of women who are being stoned to death.  Disturbed by what I read, I began to dig a little deeper, and discovered a movie, released just a few days ago, called "The Stoning of Soraya M".  I rented that movie and watched it today.

It was the most disturbing movie I have ever seen.  I believe it is a movie everyone should see, but the heart-breaking true story and graphic images makes it hard to sit through.

The overall tragedy and abhorrent act of stoning someone to death in the name of God, left me appalled, yelling at the TV screen as righteous anger almost oozed from my pores.  I could go on forever, but this is not the forum, so I will simply address in brief, a couple specific things that stood out to me in the movie.

Zahra the main character, a brazen, bold and outspoken woman lives with a heavy sense of justice.  She recognizes that what has happened to her friend and in her community is wrong, and she is refusing to stay silent about it. She says "I know right from wrong and what happened here yesterday was wrong." So, to the French reporter, Freidoune Sahebjam, whose car has broken down in her village, she says, "The voices of women do not matter here, I want you to take my voice with you".  She was determined to stand up, at risk of her own life to have the truth told! On one hand my heart resonates with Zahra's, I am propelled by justice.  Wrong's should be made right.  People should not be able to continue unchallenged, in behaviours that are deceitful, unrighteous and detrimental to both themselves and others.  Light needs to be shone to expose the darkness for what it is. However, I found myself finishing the movie, a little convicted.  More often than I would like to admit, when I should stand up and speak out, I remain silent.  One person had the courage to speak up when everyone was silent - now the whole world knows the truth!

Throughout the movie we see characters struggling with wanting to do the right thing, but instead choosing to maintain the status quo and not rock the proverbial boat.  They were willing to keep their mouth shut, to play along and even participate in the what they knew was the unjust stoning of Soraya.  The men in the town, even her friend the mayor, pleaded with Zahra to "soften your tongue, work with them, respect them, give them what they want, tell them what they want to hear". To which Zahra responds "That is what you do isn't it - but at what price?" At one point she says that he is nothing more than a slave, a prostitute to those he serves.  I am reminded of something I once heard a pastor say. "If God put it in your heart to say it and you don't say it - if God put it in your heart to do it and you don't do're not a prophet of God, you're a prostitute of the church." Our silence can costs us and more often others, dearly, sometimes their lives, spiritually and/or physically.

The mayor, realizing that he had participated in bringing about this travesty, having conceded to this innocent woman being stoned, prayed just before that fateful hour "dear God help me, if what we're doing is according to Your will then grant me the strength to go on, help me to do the right thing. But if this is against Your will give me a sign so I can stop it." Soraya's own father picks up the first stones and throws them at her, they miss her time and again.  An onlooker speaks up and cries that Soraya should be set free, that it is a sign from God that the stones are unable to hit her, that He is protecting her because she is innocent.  First of all, the mayor never had to pray to God in the first place, because he knew this woman was not guilty and his heart told him that stoning her was wrong. Then we see the mayor recognizes that this is indeed the answer to his prayer, she is innocent, he is to stop it and yet  influenced by those who orchestrated this deadly plot he does not intervene.  Perhaps we can identify similar situations where we've asked God for a sign, for help, and He faithfully provides it to us, but we choose to do it our way, because at the time it seemed easier, reasoning everything else away as coincidence.

This whole scene reminded me a lot of when Jesus was brought before Pilate, and the mob mentality that contributed to him sentencing Christ to death by crucifixion. 

This incident takes place in 1986, however this is what I found with a little research:

In 2007 a 17 year old girl from Mosul Iraq, was stoned to death by 1000 men for having a relationship with a Sunni Muslim boy.  More abhorrent is the fact that they video taped the act on their cell phones as they threw the stones.

In October, 2008, a 13 year old girl, Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow was buried up to her neck at a football stadium then stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people for the alleged crime of adultery

A survey carried out in August 2009 found that 83% of Pakistanis believe that adulterers should be stoned. In another survey carried out in 'moderate' Indonesia (at 220 million, the world's most populated Muslim country) it found that "almost half the respondents back stoning as a punishment for adulterers.  Also take note that the book which this movie was based on written by Sahebjam was banned in Iran and I imagine the movie will be to.   I do not suggest by way of these statistics (how accurate or biased they are is to be taken into consideration) that people hold these views simply based on their ethnicity or religious beliefs, this would be a bigoted and abhorrent suggestion.  However, I personally find it abhorrent and repugnant whenever anyone of any religion (Christians included) uses God to condone hurt and oppression against others. 

The passage found in Acts 4:1-21 describing Peter & Paul being brought before the Sanhedrin is the scripture that came to mind as I watched this movie.  The Sanhedrin were responsible for the stoning death of Stephen, depicted in Acts 7 and they also conspired to have Jesus killed. We are reminded in these verses that a group of people can come together in their hate, to kill and destroy, perverting the name and word of God, but ordinary people with the courage to speak up and stand in the truth of God can be used by God to help change and save lives.

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