There are some heroes I do like, heroes who, though fallen, have somehow risen in their deaths, an example of the power of the weakness of love (as opposed to Pax Romana, victory through the sword). If you ever visit London, take a trip to Parliament Square and visit the back exit of Westminster Abbey. You’ll see the Westminster Abbey 20th Century Martyr statues. Most of them are great examples of people who were living sacrifices, people whom I believe still would have done much more alive and been a geater blessing alive than physically dead, memorialized, and only alive through their legacy. The difference would have been the legacy. After a natural death after more years of life, they would still be only alive through their legacies, but their legacies would have been much larger.
Saint Maximillian Kolbe (1894-1941) – a Polish Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz during World War II. It reminds me of a Tale of Two Cities. “A far far greater thing . . .”
Manche Masemola (1913-1928)– a young Pedi (tribe found in South Africa) Christian woman whose parents, thinking her bewitched, beat her to death to force her to consume a traditional remedy used to cure her of her Christianity
Janani Luwum (1922-1977) – an archbishop of the church of Uganda who was murdered by Idi Amin for protesting and being a leading critical voice against the injustice of Idi Amin
Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia (1864-1918) – German princess who married a grand duke of Russia and became known for her beauty and work among the poor; she publicly forgave the murderer of her husband and campaigned for his pardon; later she left the crown and became a nun; she was killed by the Bolsheviks (buried alive)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) – American civil rights leader who advanced nonviolent civil disobedience in the U.S.; he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and was assassinated due to his efforts
Óscar Romero (1917-1980) – Catholic Bishop in El Salvador and 4th Archbishop of San Salvador who spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture; he himself was assassinated for speaking out against the injustice and killings; he was a leading proponent of liberation theology
Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) – German theologican, anti-Nazi dissident, and founding member of the Confessing Church, he was part of a plan to kill Hitler; the plan failed and he was killed after being caught and imprisoned
Esther John (1929-1960) – a Pakistani Christian nurse and teacher who was brutally murdered allegedly by an Islamist radical
Lucian Tapiedi (1921-1942) – a Papuan Anglican teacher who was a member of a group of workers who were killed by the Japanese during a World War II invasion of New Guinea
Wang Zhiming (1907-1973) – a Christian pastor who was one of many Christian leaders imprisoned and killed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
When I think of these heroes I’m reminded of the recent death of Aaron Schwartz. Aaron was an information freedom fighter, but also a general political activist who worked hard to learn the system so that he could practically affect change, always concerning himself with the vulnerable and unheard, always working to close gaps. He developed the RSS feed format that many websites use today, and he did it when he was 14. I always laugh when people talk about how good it feels to help others. Yes, it feels good. But let me tell you, if you really embed yourself in their world and go beyond a superficial veneer of help to really working alongside and relating alongside those in need, it’s not nice. It doesn’t feel good. You often suffer for it yourself. Ask Mother Teresa. Ask Aaron Schwartz. He was known to suffer from depression. And in the end he killed committed suicide.
I am thinking of him because I keep thinking about how the words of friends have memorialized him. If you have a minute, please skim through Dr. Sarah Kendzior’s short Al Jazeera article on one of the battles Aaron fought against – academic paywalls. Then afterwards, please read this Naked Capitalism article on Aaron Schwartz. I didn’t now Aaron, but after reading that, I thought, “If people one day say about me half the wonderful things they said about him, my life would have been a good life.” If instead of people not wanting to be my friend or associating me with different expletives—if people instead talked about me like that, I would be overjoyed, not for my reputation, but for the good chance that it means that I spent my life worthily and left a legacy. He’s a risen hero.