Commentary Upfront Blog

Sacrificing self in service to the world

Nadia Murad’s story is one of sacrifice in its purest and most powerful form – an immolation of self for the good of others. In telling her story, she is not only saving the Yazidis she loves, but also a world that must hear what she says and be broken of any sense of indolence about evil. 

Iraqi Yazidis perform a ceremony to celebrate the New Year in Shikhan, Iraq, April 18.
Ari Jalal/Reuters
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How can we honor Nadia Murad? Kristen Chick’s beautifully told cover story this week surely raises that question for many of us. 

So often, evil hides its face – seeks some measure of acceptance by ingratiating itself to the world with a suave personality or by operating out of sight. Ms. Murad saw it unmasked as a captive of the Islamic State group. 

Her story is harrowing – a glimpse of where hatred and intolerance lead when not opposed. But her story is not over. Those memories, she says, still live with her. She has become the most powerful voice of the Yazidi people not through some inner triumph but through the sheer rawness of her pain. She has not healed, she says, yet still she is willing to speak, to push, to fight. 

She is doing it for those who still face this trauma daily. She is doing it to save her religion and her culture. She is doing it in the name of those she has lost. 

But she is also doing it for us. Murad’s story is one of sacrifice in its purest and most powerful form – an immolation of self for the good of others. In telling her story, she is not only saving the Yazidis she loves, but also a world that must hear what she says and be broken of any sense of indolence about evil. 

The steps forward include action to protect the Yazidis and to give them some appropriate sense of self-government so that they are not subject to the whims of hostile others. But we can also go deeper. We honor Nadia Murad by letting her story change us. Hatred, intolerance, ­misogyny, and violence are to be fought beyond the borders of Iraq, beginning in our own lives, homes, and thoughts. The depth of her sacrifice exhorts us to leave no stone unturned.

•  •  • 

Longtime Monitor family member Ruth Walker, whom many current Monitor readers may know best for her “Verbal Energy” column, passed on earlier this month. Ruth joined the Monitor staff in 1978 as a “copy kid” and soon became a New England bureau reporter. She later served as a foreign correspondent in Germany and Canada and was known within the newsroom as a rock during some of the Monitor’s most turbulent times.

Ruth will be remembered for her witty, wily, and often deadpan humor, and for the astonishing breadth and scope of her knowledge. She was widely read in both history and current thought, music and philosophy, urban planning and religion, theater and her local community. An Oberlin grad, Ruth was fluent in French and German, and her deep connection to language was beautifully on display in “Verbal Energy.” 

Plus, she was a great cook.

Ruth’s penultimate column – in the Sept. 11 issue – was on the subject of wakefulness. She wrote about the pleasure she took in the feeling of renewal that we enjoy each year as the new school year starts. She was clearly looking forward to another beginning.

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