I don’t mind revealing that when I heard the news of the burning of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu, that I cried – I cried tears of human frustration and spiritual pain. For context, consider if the Louvre, British National Museum, the Vatican Library and Archives or the Smithsonian had been bombed and destroyed by terrorists – that is the level of cultural crimes against humanity that we are potentially witnessing.
How can religious persons justify the taking of a life in the name of their religion? Worse, how can they seek to destroy the very essence of humanity, of life and of shared culture by sacking mosques, churches and museums or burning lecture halls and libraries? All I can note is that if they are seeking to demonstrate their spiritual distance from the rest of humanity, they have in fact succeeded – for in no way might such persons honestly qualify themselves as human – their error lies in the fact that these are not the acts of saints or angels, but rather the very essence of evil in allegiance with the fallen ones who desire to destroy the testimony and record of God.
And no, I am not the only person to weep over such things. People all over the world were horrified as the Arno threatened Florence. In 410 CE, Jerome wept when he received the news that Rome had fallen. Jesus wept over the lack of insight and understanding amongst his followers. American soldiers risked their lives protecting the treasures and records of the Iraqi National Museum during the US-led occupation.
A disaster-genre movie, The Day After Tomorrow, contains a dialogue between a young student and an atheist intellectual who is carefully guarding New York Library’s Gutenberg Bible: