The current case of Asia Bibi’s unsuccessful appeal for asylum in the UK is a blatant example of the tragic consequences of abandoning our heart-felt truth and individually held principles of compassion in favour of pragmatic, fear-based ‘damage limitation’.
Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman persecuted for blasphemy in her home country, having quarreled with some Muslim women who then brought allegations against her. As a result she was imprisoned and placed on death row. Eventually, after eight years, she was pardoned, but this very act triggered rioting in Pakistan as radical Muslims continued to call for her punishment. To escape with her life she is seeking asylum in the Christian nations of the West, but the UK authorities have declined her appeal, on the basis that it would cause civil unrest among our own Islamic population.
Writers such as Douglas Murray and Melanie Phillips dedicate themselves to highlighting the increasing regularity of this kind of politicking on our shores. They articulate the issues far better than me, so I’m not going to even try to embellish their argument.
Instead, I’m going to express the thing that really angers me about this whole issue – namely the careless abandonment of our own courage and conviction in the face of religious and political dogma and ideology.
How can we continue to allow our individually held heart-felt knowing of what is right to be drowned out by the external moralising conscience of fanaticism?
We each have our own conscience, our own still small voice which whispers to our heart to guide us and set us right. The trouble is we do not learn to listen to it keenly enough. We do not know how to tune in to it. It is therefore vulnerable to the cacophonous rantings of ideological groups.
It is easier to follow the mob than to pay close attention to our own consciousness. It is easier to adopt the conscience of our society than to speak up for ourselves. We do not learn how to interact with our own inner voice of conscience.
When we think of conscience as morality, or as the teachings of dogmatic religion, our own interaction with its voice becomes limited. We curb our courage to question those teachings, and our conscience becomes the voice of others’ expectations around us rather than the truth of our own heart.
All along the desperate arc of Asia Bibi’s plight there are points at which the true conscience of individuals has been denied and drowned out by dogmatic moralising and ideologies. Religion and politics and media echo chambers drive out our awareness and acknowledgement of individual experiences – and paradoxically as a result we end up aggravating multiple collectives in society, rather than appealing wholeheartedly to other individuals’ sense of what is right.
It’s difficult to argue in truth that it is better to leave an innocent person to a cruel fate than to do the right thing and offer them safe haven. National authorities have abandoned the principles of compassion and justice in favour of keeping the peace among ideologues and religious fanaticists. This is yet again a huge international crisis of conscience.
The antidote to this is first to learn better how to differentiate between the individually perceived voice of kindness and the loud drumming of dogma, and then to choose to act from individual courage rather than the so-called conscience of the mob.
I fervently believe that reflective writing in a journal contributes to this nurturing of our own individual awareness of truth and possibility and what is right.
This is not a political post. This is an appeal for us all to connect more deeply and consciously with our own courageous truth.