Today I feel absolutely heartbroken – two awful events have taken place in the world in the last 48 hours which make me feel sick about humanity.
The first is the tragic act of terrorism in Manchester, and the other is the brutal public torture of two gay men in the Aceh province of Indonesia.
This piece of writing is not about Manchester. Trust me I am appalled and shocked by the event, and my heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones. But I want to talk about the two young men who are victims of a false morality and religious bigotry that has resulted in their torture and humiliation.
I’m not interested in arguments of scale here. I know many people died and even more were injured in that terrible bombing, but in my mind the two incidents are equal in terms of how innocent people suffer because of twisted ideological fanaticism.
In the case of the Aceh beatings, I find myself asking: Why is it in a supposedly modern world, people can behave with such savagery? The answer is that essentially we don’t live in a modern world. Too many societies across the globe are locked into an ancient world view where they terrorise anyone who steps out of line and doesn’t adhere to a religious based ideology.
The results of this are societies that return to callous punishments that bring out the worst emotions and actions human beings are capable of.
Imagine for a moment what it would have been like for those men.
Being accused and then arrested, and (I’m presuming) getting a pretty rough ride by the police. To be lead through streets of thronging people all baying literally for blood. To then be lead up onto a platform and whipped by an anonymous sadist while your own face is there for all to see. What would you be feeling emotionally and physically at such a moment.
Imagine hearing the cries from the sanctimonious crowd – ‘hit them harder.’
I’m not sure if you’ve seen the video of the incident. But I finally looked at it and its very disturbing. What I saw was cowardice and the worst form of bullying. And I need to ask myself – is this what humanity is still all about? We terrorise those that are different to us or who don’t conform to what is seen as the ‘norm’?
All too often in all societies the worst treatment of people stems from those who adhere to strict religious beliefs. In the case of Aceh the imposition of Sharia Law means a theocracy has been imposed on the population and they are not free to live their lives as they choose. Instead, as happens with all religious based legal jurisdictions, they are under a yoke that smothers individuality and diversity and ultimately leads to savagery.
For some inexplicable reason, the more orthodox a person’s religious beliefs, the more likely they are to despise homosexuality. I fail to see in any of this the notion of a ‘loving’ god – what I see is hatred, bigotry and a sadistic desire to see people suffer.
When religious ideology permeates a society and its laws, no one is safe. You only need to look at the history of the world to conclude that human beings with differing viewpoints on religion will probably end up fighting to the death. In most modern countries, thankfully, those differences are tolerated, but in so many others, the results are still leading to barbarism.
Of course, it is not just religion that causes bullying behaviour – we see examples of it in families, relationships, schools, work places and in politics right across the world. Bullying is something that seems inherently human and until we confront it within ourselves, it will never go away.
The Aceh beatings, and the images from the video of this incident should shock anyone who has a sense of decency and also serve as a reminder of what can happen in a society that returns to the slavish demands of religious conformity.
For now, my heart breaks for those two young men in Aceh. I hope they can find some form of peace after this incident, but I suspect they and all other gay and transgender people in the province are living in fear of their lives and probably desperate to get out.