BY MIKE JAMES
Senseless acts of hate, violence, murder and mass assassinations around the world against members of the public simply because of their race, religion or nationality are increasing in frequency as well as their vicious and callous nature. The horror and heartlessly of these acts of hate and the fearful, impulsive, lethal responses in a seemingly unending cycle of violence to them are transmitted by the modern global, instant communications to the eyes of millions, even billions, daily.
Shocking reports during the past week include news of 28 Coptic Catholics executed on a bus pilgrimage to a monastery in Egypt, 22 youthful music lovers killed in Manchester, a US Pentagon statement acknowledging that its investigation into a March 17 bombing airstrike targeting Islamic State group fighters in Mosul, Iraq set off a series of explosions that killed more than 100 civilians (more than 200 civilians estimated by the Iraq government ally of the US in its demand for compensation to families of the victims).
Most victims of “terrorism” are Muslims. The prestigious US Publication Christian Science Monitor reports that “In 2011, the US National Counterterrorism Center reported that, “in cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years,” and Muslim-majority countries bore the greatest number of attacks involving 10 or more deaths. According to a 2009 report published by the Counter Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Al Qaeda kills more than seven times more Muslims than non-Muslims. More recently, a 2014 UN report found that Muslims are the largest victims of IS in Iraq.”
What should be our response to the hate of relatively small groups of extremists who are capable of terrible acts violence?
One example, which has received surprising little coverage internationally, comes from the City of Portland, Oregon in the US.
Last Friday afternoon, two teenage US-born girls, one of them a Muslim,17 and wearing a headscarf, the other, Destinee Mangum, black, 16 boarded a suburban train in Portland. A “white supremacy” advocate with convictions for violent crimes and a record of neo-Nazi salutes and disruptions as public demonstrations targeted the girls with a stream of racial and anti-religious abuse, shouting that they should leave the country and that “all Muslims should die”. The girls moved away from him, but he continued to approach and scream at them
One shocked fellow-passenger, brilliant recent University economics graduate Taliesin Namkai-Meche,24 was on the phone to his aunt when the suspect confronted the girls. His aunt urged him to get off the phone and film what was happening, “I didn’t want him to try to be a hero and get himself killed but he was trying to protect those two teenage girls,” she told a television station.
However, as the man grew more threatening towards the girls Taliesin and 2 other passengers then intervened, Ricky Best, 53, father of 4, who spent 23 years serving in the US Army, retiring in 2012 and currently working for the City of Portland and 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher.
Desiree´s mother told the Oregonian newspaper that one of the three said: “You can’t get at them like that — they’re little girls.”
Instead, the man attacked the 3 Good Samaritans, and slashed them with a knife. Taliesin and Ricky were killed, and Micah is hospitalized with serious injuries. The attacker disembarked at the next station and fled on foot, but was pursued by other passengers and police, alerted by 911 calls from passengers, detained him.
White supremacist Jeremy Christian, has since been charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon.
Destinee Mangum, 16, on Saturday, at times in tears told a TV station, “They lost their lives because of me and my friend, and the way we looked,” she said. “I just want to say thank you to them and their family, and that I appreciate them. Without them, we probably would be dead right now.”
Her mother wrote on Facebook: “Thank you thank you thank you… You will always be our heroes.
Mr Namkai-Meche’s mother paid tribute to her “dear baby boy” on Facebook. “He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil,” she wrote. “Shining bright star, I love you forever.”
Friends from Namkai-Meche’s home town of Ashland, in southern Oregon, said: “Taliesin was the kind of guy who made you believe that you can be bigger than yourself”. Another childhood friend added that: “If he knew he was going to die, he still would have done what he did”.
A work colleague of Ricky Best told Oregon Live he was “the first person you would go to for help”. called “a shining bright star” by his mother
Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said the “brave and selfless actions” of the three men “should serve as an example and inspiration to us all”. However, speaking at a press conference, he warned “the current political climate allows far too much room for those who spread bigotry”.
These modern-day Samaritans who offered life and limb to protect the defenceless give a striking response to the hate of relatively small groups in our midst. And as Jesus invited his listeners at the end of his Parable of the Good Samaritan. “Go therefore and do the same” (Lk 10:37).