Andrew Wilson: Small ways to help Peshawar horror

Pakistan flag flown at half-mast from City Chambers. Picture: John Devlin

Pakistan flag flown at half-mast from City Chambers. Picture: John Devlin

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THURSDAY morning was cold and as I walked down my village main street with a friend who was carrying her newborn. I gazed at yellow skies and thought “snow”. Seconds later it was blowing in our faces as we hurried into the warmth of our magnificent local nursery school.

Dean Park in Balerno sits at the top of the Water of Leith and the foot of the Pentland Hills. It is an old building but the devotion of its staff makes it wondrous. Truly. And nothing showed it off better than the end-of-term Christmas show.

Four-year-olds sang their hearts out in magical outfits as a retired teacher, who quietly devotes her life to others, played the piano while a packed hall of parents sniffled in love and pride. These are the moments we cherish until we die. My youngest refused to wear a sheep costume but she was eventually persuaded to take part wearing a large hooded jumper. Cooler, obviously. That’s her at four; I am in trouble when she hits her teens.

Her eldest brother came down from the primary school and had a speaking part which, for a variety of good reasons, was a much bigger deal for him to deliver than it is for the average bear. Quite a morning for me and mine.

The same scene was being played out across the country in communities large and small, rich and poor. One of the many joys of this time of year that gladdens hardened hearts.

Meantime, four thousand miles away a community filled with exactly the same sort of souls in different guises, wept in deep, aching and unrelenting grief. Out of the depths they are in, they cry to us all.

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Making sense of the murder of more than 130 children is simply impossible. The echo of our own massacre in Dunblane in 1996 reverberates now. That 4,000 miles and 70,000 other terrorist murders separates Pakistan from us should not allow our sense to be dulled.

Spare a thought for those to whom we all look for leadership when the question “what must be done?” is asked of situations for which there can be no simple resolution.

If meeting fire with fire was the answer, Afghanistan would have been quelled long ago. Doing nothing can be no solution either as our fingerprints are to be found in every corner of a region racked in conflict.

Nor should we be tempted by any who suggest this is a function of one or all religions. This barbarism serves no God. The greatest son of the Indian sub-continent was, of course, Gandhi. A man without position or office, he preached non-violent opposition and helped win independence for his people.

Few remember that Gandhi was inspired by the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy who in turn was inspired by the Gospel of St Luke. Tolstoy’s book The Kingdom of God is Within You on the theme of non-violent resistance when confronted by aggression inspired the young Gandhi and they corresponded until Tolstoy’s death in 1910.

Gandhi lived that message, though so few others have the deep grace to follow suit. We cannot expect our leaders and military to buy Gandhi’s pacifism in the face of all the pain in our world.

But as private citizens it can inform our own response in solidarity with those at the sharp end of agony. I know Glasgow councillor Jahangir Hanif to be a gentle man. He has lost two family members in the massacre. He is one of us.

Pakistan and Scotland are joined by bonds that will never break. We welcomed thousands ejected from Idi Amin’s brutal Ugandan regime in the 1970s and now more than one in seventy Scots are of Pakistani origin.

They are contributors: more likely to be in work, educated, self-starting and startlingly more likely to run their own business than the average Scot. They enrich us by their presence in every sense.

The messages of Luke, Tolstoy and Gandhi point in the same direction. Each and every one of us has the power within us to change the world in our own small way. Colossal problems can be tackled and the solution begins with us. We must no longer look to the skies for greatness to deliver us from evil.

I don’t have the answer to the foreign policy and security conundrum but I do know that in our own conduct as private citizens we can make our contribution count. Extend the firm hand of friendship, in whatever form you can, to the one in seventy Scots whose homeland is running in blooded tears.

And play your part in crushing racism and respecting Islam’s true message of peace.

And love all the children we can touch with even greater effort and compassion than yesterday because we all know we can find more time to do just that. Dunblane taught us that the lightning of destruction can strike anywhere and anytime.

Live every day in the knowledge that mornings like mine last Thursday in Balerno are rare privileges we must savour for the magical moments they are. «

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