In Mathew 5: 43-45, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” It is easy to dismiss what Jesus said as an impractical or far-fetched idea. Or that it was a command that was applicable to people in those days but is irrelevant in the modern world. Yet, when you think about it, if only we would have been able to follow it, so many disasters could have been averted. In this culture of intolerance, we are not able to accept the ‘other’, someone who is different from us. What ails us most as a race is our dogged adherence to the belief that we are right, no matter what. And by deduction, the other person is wrong.
Take the honour killings of Tamil Nadu. According to one report, there have been 81 honour killings in three years in the state. If not love, if only the perpetrators of the crime could have been taught to respect the views of their enemies. Or take the case of AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi refusing to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Or the scuffle at the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar where opposing student groups fought over an India-West Indies T-20 cricket match. I’m not going to get into who is right and wrong in these scenarios. But what if the truth is neither right nor wrong. What if it just is and in our warped, fundamentalist existence, we are unable to see this.
History has thrown up several instances of love between enemies. There was the great wolf hunt by the Russians and the Germans during World War 1. When the troops of the two nations fighting in the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk region in the winter of 1916-17 found themselves at the mercy of packs of ferocious wolves, they decided to call a truce and go wolf hunting together. They worked in harmony to eradicate the menace of the wolves and as soon as the task was accomplished, the truce was called off.
Then there is the lovely story of the friendship between American pilot Charles Brown and German pilot Franz Stigler. In December 1943, an encounter with the Germans left half of Brown’s crew wounded and their plane open to attack. When Brown took a quick glance out the window, he saw a German plane piloted by Franz Stigler, an ace fighter, out to revenge the killing of his brother by the Americans. But soon, it became apparent to Stigler that the Americans were incapable of putting up a defense. He not only did not kill them but also steered them to safety. Forty years later, Stigler and Brown found each other and became the best of friends. When asked what prompted him to save the lives of the Americans, Stigler quoted the words of his commanding officer: “You fight by rules to keep your humanity.” Words of wisdom indeed.