Playgrounds would have to be among some of the most joyful places on earth. There is something magical about children at play; their laughter is like a ray of sunlight piercing through the storm clouds. A playground is a place for making new friends, scaling new heights and having fun.
It is no place for terrorists.
And yet, in the early evening of Easter Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 72 people. Most of them were children.
It defies belief. There simply aren’t words to express the sense of devastation evoked by the merciless slaughter of innocent children. While no death claimed by terror is understandable or less than horrifying, targeting children and their parents is a special kind of perversity.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a division of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming to have targeted Christians, although people of all backgrounds were massacred. The intention of the attack was reportedly to announce to the Pakistani Prime Minister that the Taliban had arrived in his home province.
In our modern world, terrorism is an alarming constant. A complete list of terrorist attacks in the last year would likely fill this page on their own. Between ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and all the other nasties, it’s hard to know who’s the most reprehensible of the lot.
In amongst this dreadful competition to see who can kill and maim the most, generate the most media attention (which sadly [and wrongly] increases exponentially any time a Western country is attacked) and hit the most devastating targets, it can be easy to want to fight fire with more fire. The American Republican presidential candidates ably demonstrated this in the aftermath of Brussels. But if seeds of discord and mistrust are sown in an already fertile patch of festering paranoia, where does the hatred stop?
I have no answers, only tortured questions. Today I see the smoking debris of that magical playground in my mind’s eye and I [idealistically, futilely] wish for peace.