Sanctity And Sanctuary Or Lack Thereof

I know violence.  I know menace.  I know hatred. I was attacked once by a mob of AK47-wielding men.  I was twenty-one at the time and on my way back to work from a quick lunch break.  This was back in apartheid-era South Africa.   I won’t get into the details because I hold no grudges against those men who were as much victims as I was of that skewed system based on racial supremacy but what I will say is that I should have died that day.  Three people were killed that day, a few feet away from where I was assaulted.   I escaped.  Call it what you will, I call it a miracle.

A year later I was walking home from a doctor’s appointment when I noticed I was being followed by four men in a white car.   Most of the walk home was along a main road so there was some traffic but not a lot at that particular time of day. Those men in that car did not try to hide the fact they were following me.  I remember fear rising up inside me like a cold wave as they whistled and called me ‘sweetie’ and banged the sides of the car like the hooligans they were.  I knew that once I turned into a quieter street they would get their chance to  – who knows what? So I walked into a cathedral.   It was called The Cathedral Of Christ The Saviour.  I went inside and knelt down.  Except for the tall statues of Mary and St Joseph and the flickering candles I was the only person there, so I prayed.  I let the minutes pass in that marbled sanctuary and then walked outside again to check if they were in the area or parked in the road and to my horror found them in the church parking lot casually waiting for me.

I ran back inside and prayed some more and soon noticed a woman lighting candles near the altar.  I walked up to her and asked if she could give me a lift home (I lived four blocks away).  She was very reluctant at first but on learning why she agreed and I was delivered safely to my house.  (You can imagine how that incident traumatized me – I didn’t walk anywhere after that for many many years).

The reason I am sharing this today is I was deeply saddened to hear of the murder of five people in a Jerusalem synagogue today.  I don’t believe you need to worship in a ‘special’ place, my temple has for some time now been the forest but still, I respect the fact that people of all creeds have built structures in which to serve our Creator and these structures and places of worship should be honored and respected by all.

Is this an antiquated idea?  Have our morals loosened so much since the Middle Ages that sanctity and sanctuary are no more? 

I am not saying here that murdering children or bombing civilians is acceptable or even understandable because they are murdered in the streets; what I am saying is that a word has yet to be invented to describe a person who attacks or murders another bowed in worship in a place of sanctuary.

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29 thoughts on “Sanctity And Sanctuary Or Lack Thereof

  1. My heart breaks for the families of those killed and those who continue to live in fear.
    Thank God you survived those two terrifying incidents, Yolanda. Your prayers were answered when the woman appeared at the altar. xo

  2. I try to keep it foremost in my head just how lucky I am to live where I do. I have never worried about my safety although there are drive-by shootings here. Most are drug deals gone bad or other specific targeted reasons. My heart goes out to people who are born in those countries where safety doesn’t exist. They don’t know any other way to live and that’s just wrong. Glad that you experiences turned out ok. Sounds like there are some blog posts there.

    • In our city too if someone is shot it’s because they have ties with drug-dealers and the like. So yes we are luckier than most Kate. I pray for peace and sanity to prevail everywhere ❤

  3. Oh Yolanda, how absolutely terrifying for you, I am so sorry you had to experience that but thank God you were kept safe in both instances. And yes, my heart is heavy with you. Where is sanctuary indeed? A terrible, terrible tragedy, utterly heartbreaking. The world has gone mad.
    I send you a hug today, I hope you can feel it… x

  4. Those incidents sound so frightening, Yolanda, so glad you made it through ok. I loved through a mugging by gunpoint and an attack abroad, luckily with minimal injury, but I know fear too, I used to be afraid of the double of footsteps behind me. But hearing about that Temple violence really shook me too. You’re absolutely right – no word has been in invented for that, yet. Let’s hope there’s never a need for one, though that’s probably wishful thinking.
    -Dana

  5. Yolanda, the first incident is disturbing and must have haunted you for quite some time. I cannot imagine being a witness to those murders. I am impressed that you forgave those men, focusing on the skewed society that apartheid constituted making them act out in this violence. This is an admirable trait you have.
    I have been brave sometimes when I should not have. I am so glad you chose to run into the cathedral. I also was shocked that those ‘hooligans’ in the car did not leave. It is so great that you went in there again, waiting, which led to your safe ride home.
    You are right. These ‘close calls’ make me think of miracles, Yolanda. I am appalled when our churches in the U.S. were burned because black people were worshippers. I am deeply saddened at the recent five deaths in a Jewish synagogue. I would not wish people to be murdered in any place, but somehow not respecting the sanctuary of places of worship, shows a real lack of conscience. This is truly abhorrent. Is it possible it will ever stop?

    • Well said Robin ‘not respecting the sanctuary of places of worship shows a real lack of conscience’ and a complete absence of faith. I want to laugh and cry at the same time when I hear terrorists take another’s life in ‘God’s name’. My prediction is this will only end when we see ourselves in our brothers and sisters eyes – in other words when finally we learn to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

      • I always feel the “Love thy neighbor as ourselves,” or “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” are both universal messages, Yolanda. Absolutely wish the world would become closer, make the message of Give Peace a Chance everyone’s. I loved this little movie, “Joyeaux Noel” which is based on a true story between French/English/American troops who decided for one night, Christmas, to not fire back with the other side where Germans were fighting. The special part of this was that a woman who sang Opera decided to sing hymns into the silence of the night. It is an incredible story of putting aside differences and honoring Christ, in this case.

      • Yes! I read about that special night (World War I, I believe) but have not seen the movie. Incredible how human beings can swing between love and evil (light and dark) so easily…Christ’s message was of forgiveness which makes it especially more horrifying to think those men went back to killing each other the next day 😦 Hope you have a wonderful week Robin ❤

  6. Yolanda, I have chills. I’m so grateful that you found sanctuary when you most needed it. Two terrifying experiences!! About the attack in Jerusalem that was my exact thought-are we losing the meaning of sanctuary? This past year a man here in Phoenix attacked two priests in a church. One of the priests, a young man, was killed. That was probably a mentally ill man who attacked them. I’m afraid that isn’t what was at issue in Jerusalem. My prayers go out to the families of those rabbis and the police officer.

  7. Yolanda I cannot imagine the fear you had, especially after the first experience. Sadly there are people, if you can call them that, that have no boundaries or morals at all. Society is a mix of good and evil and I must choose to think there are more good people in this big old world than evil. There are no excuses for taking another humans life.

  8. I stopped by again to read and to thank you for following my blog. I will be reading more of yours. Sounds like you too have had an eventful life.I too have experienced Divine intervention when in mortal danger. I’m looking forward to getting to know you.

  9. Oh, Yolanda, what a harrowing experience and a powerful testimony. A church doesn’t have to “ours” to be safe refuge, and the woman was a blessing just waiting for you.
    This is a beautiful post. Have you thought of submitting it somewhere to encourage others?

  10. Oh gosh, Yolanda that must have been terrifying. I do believe you were ‘guarded’ at those moments and I’m glad you made it to safety. All you can do in such situations is keeping your cool and pray indeed.
    I hear and feel your frustration, disbelief and sadness. It’s not easy to have an open mind and or loving nature when all you see around is madness. However it’s people like you, with everything you’ve gone through, a keeper of the flame, who refuses to give in to this downward spiral that we can truly make a change. There must be a reason for everything. But sometimes it’s so darn hard to understand, and the only thing we can do is work on our own light and in’spire’ others to do the same.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words Karin. What doesn’t kill you certainly makes you stronger – I believe that. My most fervent prayer is always for peace and understanding.

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