I’ve always wanted to be a photographer but doodling on my phone camera and my new Instagram account will have to suffice for now. But I’ve been particular intrigued by the role of photography in humanitarian and various aspects of global development. This is why I was intrigued by an article that came through my reader about an Afghani photographer named Massoud Hossaini who was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.
I clicked it and saw the image and in a split second, I wished I had NEVER clicked to read the article and of course, the accompanying “award winning” photograph. I wish I had a sudden blue screen, or back stalking on Facebook, or watching my Netflix, or laughing at some idiot on the Fail Blog, or perhaps some beautiful and heartwarming image of local Africans smiling from ear to ear at their new clean water well…
Tthose were my initial thoughts.
Understand? My thoughts were to escape this reality and pain rather than entering in to better or more deeply understand the story and pain.
If you do click and see the image, what were your first thoughts?
How do you respond to such utter pain?
This image will be now with me forever. While I missed this image when it was first captured on December 6, 2011, it will be with me forever.
So, I warn you…before you click “read more” … know that you will be disturbed.
While my intent in sharing this photograph isn’t for the purposes of “shock and awe”, I think that all of us need reminders (however they come) of the broken and fallen world that we live in. While we clearly need to reminded of the other spectrum of beauty and hope, it’s possible that sometime we limit our view of the world to “I am so blessed”…that we forget we live in a fallen, broken, and evil world and that we have work to do. I say this not to be a voice of fatalism or utter hopelessness but a reminder that the world is not what it ought to be and that God promises to restores all things but we have to be a part of that work. And as such, we not only rely on God and the mercy and grace of God, but we must commit ourselves to Peace, Hope, and Love.
As a Christian, I long for the return of Christ as He restores all things but till then, we partner with God to work towards that restoration.
As for the photographer Hossaini, he is fortunate to be alive. He was “just yards away” when the bomb – via a suicide bomber – went off on December 6, 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. The bomb killed anywhere from 54 to 70+ people (depending on sources).
“First of all I should say that I’m so happy and excited to be the first Afghan to win a Pulitzer,” said Hossaini. “I cannot sleep even. Also, I’m humbled to be an Afghan who can be a voice for the painful life and moments, which people have here. I know that whoever sees this photo will think about the photographer but I hope they don’t forget the pain Afghanistan’s people have in their life.”
Don’t escape. Sit in this pain.
I invite you and challenge you to sit in this pain, discomfort, and brokenness and ask you to join me and others in not only praying but living out our lives as peacemakers and reconcilers. Click on the image. Sit with it. Stay wit hit. Cry with it. Be angry. Look at the faces – recognized or unrecognized – of each baby, child or person in the high resolution photograph.
But I ask you…don’t escape it.
The young girl’s name in the center of the photograph is 12-year-old Afghan girl, Tarana Akbari. Here’s some important context to the photograph:
It was the Shia Muslim festival of Ashura, the day Shias mourn for Imam Hossain, their third imam and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
The imam was killed with his family during a war in 680 CE.
To mark the day, children wear green dresses to show their sympathy with the imam’s children, who were also killed.
Taraneh, the girl in the photograph, “had begged her parents to get her a green dress for Ashura”, Massoud Hossaini, the 30-year-old photographer, told the BBC.
Though the family is not wealthy, they granted her wish.
It was the green dress that attracted Hossaini’s attention at the start of the festival, a parade through the streets of Kabul.
Shortly after, a suicide bomber sat down in the middle of the crowd and blew himself up.
In sitting with this image for a bit this morning, I was reminded of couple quotes:
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” – Jesus
“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” – Einstein
“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I don’t know how quite to write this appropriately but click on the image if you want to view it in high resolution.
“Lord, have mercy…”