Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is the Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilian men, women and children a week ago. According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal, he spent the weekend in pretrial isolation as military prosecutors prepared a case that may carry the death penalty.
There is still much we do not know about the 38-year-old married father of two, but some details are beginning to emerge. He grew up outside Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was named captain of his high school football team and earned all-league honors his senior year. He attended Ohio University and began a career as a financial adviser, but enlisted in the Army after 9-11. Known as a “likable guy” by his fellow soldiers, he helped care for a special needs man in his neighborhood before leaving for boot camp.
Now Sgt. Bales is accused of shooting, stabbing, and setting ablaze men, women, and children. His friends are shocked. “That just wasn’t him. That’s why it’s torn anybody up that knew him,” said one neighbor.
While we do not know and may never understand the reasons behind such a heinous crime, the response of the global Muslim community is more logical, given the Islamic worldview. Muhammad began the Muslim movement in his hometown of Mecca in A.D. 610. Twelve years later, he and his 70 followers made the hijra, the “flight” to Medina, a city 250 miles to the north. Here they established the first Muslim community, called the ummah. It transcends borders, languages and generations. While America is a nation with religions, Islam is a religion with nations.
As a result, an attack on one Muslim is seen as an attack on all Islam. Conversely, the actions of one soldier are seen as representing the nation he served. Sgt. Bales’ alleged violence against Muslim civilians is therefore viewed by many Muslims as violence by America against Islam. The outrage that has resulted is consistent with this worldview.
We must show the Muslim world that this is not the case–the horrific actions of one man do not represent the nation he served. Our authorities’ response will be critical, but Christians play a vital role in this crisis as well. Pray for our leaders to turn to God for guidance and wisdom. Pray for the bereaved families of the victims, that the Holy Spirit would reveal Christ’s love to them and that they would turn to his healing grace. Pray for Sgt. Bales and his family, that he would be treated justly and that his wife and children would experience grace and mercy.
And pray for a great spiritual awakening to sweep the global ummah, as Muslims experience Jesus not just as a great prophet but as their Savior and Lord. God is calling his people to join hands in a global army of intercession. What if this movement depended on you?