An MCC Pastor reflects on Saddam Hussein’s execution
Hi, everyone. This was posted as part of MCC’s Diverse Voices of Justice Newsletter (an ongoing series of reflections and op-ed articles by members of Metropolitan Community Churches). I thought it was worth re-posting on our blog.
The following reflection was authored by the Reverend Pat Bumgardner, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York. Rev. Bumgardner serves as Chair of MCC’s Global Justice Team.
Saddam Hussein was hung to death in Iraq before dawn on December 30, 2006, just prior to the call to morning prayer. Though accused of many things, the conviction and death sentence were for the massacre of 148 men and boys in the town of Dujail 24 years ago.
Four women stood before photographers for the New York Times with pictures of their slain loved ones, and people who witnessed the hanging said Mr. Hussein was unusually submissive and, in the end, simply resigned himself to his fate.
Not much was said about the letter authored to the Iraqi nation in the final days before this execution, calling for peace and attempting to quell any potential escalation of sectarian violence his death might inspire.
Following his death, the media devoted much time to the question of where the body of this one-time dictator would be laid to rest. Many fear death’s apparent ability — even in the case of those who have committed atrocities — to alter views of the past and inspire hopes for the future.
Perhaps that should be the real question we ask ourselves in our prayers this week, and the question we ask every morning in prayer: “What are our hopes for the future — our hopes for the world?”
Will executing human beings, even those of admittedly tyrannical repute, guarantee a better future for the hundreds of thousands of people who cling to life under desperate conditions in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East? What will restore hope and promise to a part of the world once hailed as the cradle of civilization?
Every morning in prayer, the breviary I follow begins with the words, “Open my lips, O God, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” What will proclaim the praise of God this day? Perhaps we should add to our morning prayers the recitation of the text we hold most sacred and the higher law we profess to live by: “Thou shalt not kill.” “God takes no delight in the sacrifice of life,” Psalm 51 says.
Not long ago, in this same corner of the world, in Iran, two young boys named Mahmoud and Ayaz, were hung to death because they, too, broke the law. They were gay. And in their country, being gay is a capital offense — it undermines the future of the people and dashes the promise of humanity, we are told.
Many will say there is no connection between the two executions. But many of us also learned early in life that two wrongs don’t make a right. Taking life is taking life. Maybe our morning prayer today should begin simply with a petition for forgiveness for all the ways we have worked against the promise of peace on earth and good will among all.
The Reverend Pat Bumgardner
Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of New York
Chair, MCC Global Justice