Sunday, January 19, 2014

Suffering and the Future of Iran

Payam Akhavan,
Associate Professor, McGill University

To understand the power of suffering, we should consider the story of a man who for many years languished in prison because of his ideals of justice and human dignity. He wrote in his memoirs, "The cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself, honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others -- qualities which are within easy reach of every soul -- are the foundation of one's spiritual life."
 And when he was released from prison after 27 bitter years, he wrote, "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."
 This man was a great man. He was a powerful man because he allowed his suffering to make him a leader among his people, a leader among nations, whose leadership was built on his exemplary humanity rather than wealth or status or violence. This man was Nelson Mandela. He was a champion that ushered in a better and once unimaginable future for South Africa because of his refusal to let suffering suffocate his humanity.
 Let us also look at our own champions such as Nasrin Sotoudeh. She wrote to her little girl from prison with confidence that the pain we "have had to endure over the past few years is not in vain." "Justice arrives exactly at a time when most have given up hope," she continued. "It arrives when we least expect it ... If you are upset with the interrogators and judges ... bestow peace and tranquility upon them with your childlike melody so that as a result we too can achieve much deserved tranquillity and peace of mind."
 We must pause and ask: Who has the greater power? Nasrin Sotoudeh or her torturers?

Full article.