I was shocked, just like the nation and much of the world, at the bombing of the Boston Marathon. In the first video feed I saw an elderly runner fall off his feet, likely hit my shrapnel. My eyes fixated on him. People didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what happened. Yet, in a millisecond, they knew that terrorism had struck them. Panic hit. A second bomb and the scene was utter chaos. Some ran away, others ran directly to the bombsite. That is not natural.
I was immediately taken back to another bombing, almost exactly ten years ago. I was with hundreds of leaders getting ready to preach here in Cambodia. My wife was home making dinner for me. I got a call from my Mom moments before I was to step on the stage. Uncharacteristically I answered it. It was then I got the news that my Dad had been gravely wounded in a bomb attack in Davao city, Philippines. I rushed home and called my travel agent to get a flight to the Philippines. In those days, airplanes did not fly into Cambodia at night, so I had to wait till the next morning to fly out. I too turned on the news: CNN, BBC, and Channel News Asia to get any information. Because of its remoteness there was only one video clip taken at a distance away from the blast site and the Singaporean Channel News Asia aired it. Some kids were playing in the street with their parents when a massive plume of smoke and shock wave hit them and through the wobble of the camera you could see the blast. Soon after, another call came from my Mom. Dad was gone. Everything after that didn’t matter.
For nearly a week, my Dad’s face was on all the news networks. The Iraq war had not yet started, even though everyone knew it would be soon, so they had nothing much to talk about except my Dad. Arriving in the Philippines my Dad’s face was on the front of every newspaper. I had few thoughts. I was grieving, but I did think and pray continuously about my response. Sitting on a Kuwait Airways plane in route to the Philippines God spoke to me about how to respond: Vengeance.
We all knew my Dad was killed by Muslim terrorists because the group called MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) claim responsibility for the attack. It came weeks before a US and Philippine military exercise near the Muslim region in Cambodia. The US FBI classified my father’s death as an official “Victim of the War of Terror” which opened the door for some federal support.
Boston. Another bombing on US soil. Growing up in the Philippines, unfortunately, bombings are common. I have seen them. I have had other friends killed in other bombings. It is a regularly way used by cowards to bring terror into the lives of innocent and random people; Hence the term “terrorism”.
When you were born, you inherently had rights as our Declaration of Independence says, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” When that bomb went off in Boston, your rights were violated, and these rights are unalienable, which means ‘they cannot be taken away’. You have the right to respond.
In the Old Testament, we can see clearly what are your “unalienable rights” and what the punishment for violating those rights are. The Bible says, “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).
Governments are ordained by God and they will extract some form of justice, however, the justice of the modern era is always politically tainted. In fact, as a victim, I am sorry to say you may never see justice in your lifetime.
When my father was killed, no one was ever put to justice. I have never heard anything from the FBI nor the State Department and only a few unofficial words from US Military Intelligence. The Philippine Government never pursued any perpetrators, nor those who claimed responsibility: the MILF. In fact, not only that, but to rub salt on the wounds of decades of atrocities, they gave amnesty, autonomous land, and even allowed them to keep their weapons and militias and give little or no honor to victims of the seemingly never-ending violence.
Fortunately, I have never put my hopes for justice in any government. A response to the violation of my rights and my family’s right is my personal quest. It is my right to respond. I choose vengeance. My father was targeted for several reasons: He was white, he was an American, he was a Christian living in what Muslims consider a “Christian enclave” in Davao City. In previous years my Mom and Dad were even put on a list of those whom the Muslims wanted to kidnap and hold for ransom in Mindanao. What work did they do? My father was a teacher. A music teacher and Bible teacher. He led choirs. He worked in development providing poor farmers with capital to grow their farms. He taught pastors how to love their neighbors and those who hate them too. He provided relief to Muslims when their villages were bombed by the government forces. For this he was killed.
Why were runners, citizens of Boston, and tourists from around the world targeted? We don’t know the motive, and may never know, but we can be sure why they attacked Boston. It is famous. The race is famous, probably the most famous marathon in the world. Boston is known as a “Catholic city” even though it is certain that every faith, or atheist faith, lives in the city, as too for Davao City. They were attacked because of their freedom and their expressions of their freedom.
Victims, honestly, may never see justice in their lifetimes. Rest assured, however, God will ensure eternal justice. All victims of the bombing have the right of response. No one will condemn you for your response. Some will respond with anger and some with hopelessness. Some will respond with unusual compassion for others and forgiveness.
I would put forward that a defensive posture will not help you. You cannot simply hide and hope evil will never come your way again. It is coming. I grew up in a country where these bombings are so common they barely make the news unless several people are killed. Evil will always seek to destroy good. Peace cannot exist on an island and hope that violence will never come to its shores. It will come.
I made a decision to be as aggressive and calculated with love as evil is with destruction and terror. I purposely return to the Philippines, not to the beaches, but the Muslim areas, every few months to extract vengeance. My vengeance is love. These evil people tried to destroy my family with a bomb. They tried to kill compassion with their evil. They tried to conquer peace. I refuse to allow evil to win. Since that carefully planned and calculated bombing ten years ago I have calculated my vengeance in Mindanao and around the world. Without going into details, I work with pastors to establish centers for empowerment, centers for love and centers for education around Mindanao. There are more than 200 centers right now and I have not yet fully extracted my vengeance. I will continue.
From victim to victim I would like to encourage those whose lives have been forever altered by violence. Don’t lose hope. The nation loves you. The world loves you. The government will seek a form of justice. All you need to concern yourself with is healing and your response. Some people made an immediate response and ran into the smoke to deliver aid to the wounded. This is not natural. This is love. If you respond with anger and violence, it is your right, no one will condemn you. However, the most damage you can do to the enemy is to respond with forgiveness and love. Anger and violence will only breed more evil and hatred. However, forgiveness and love will conquer the enemy.
Victims of Boston: I really pray for you, not just with fancy words, but really taking time to pray to our Lord God for you. I pray for your response. I stand with you. I pray you seek vengeance through love. Boston is historically known as the birthplace of revolution in America. I pray your response ignites another revolution: a revolution of love.