This time, Herod knew exactly where to go to find his
target: a market square in Florence, Italy. A few miles from Michelangelo’s David, one of
Herod’s kind shot four Senegalese
street vendors, killing two. The newspaper “La Repubblica” tells the story (www.repubblica.it): Ndiaye,
whose brother Diop was killed, spoke to reporters while searching for the
hospital morgue. He said, “There were
four of us standing side by side with our merchandise laid out on white sheets
on the ground…I haven’t figured out yet why he skipped me…” Ndiaye tried to make sense of the shooting:
“But, why? We have been here 10 years,
and we’ve never argued with anyone. We
are good people.” Ndiaye will have to
call Diop’s wife and three children back in Dakar.
Diop sent money home often, receiving letters every now and then and a
photo once a year.
Modou’s best friend Lo
knelt on bouquets of flowers lying at the place where Modou and Diop were
shot. He explained that he and Modou had
come to Italy
together hoping to become successful. Lo
was eventually able to get a work permit and a job in a cleaning business. Modou, on the other hand, never got a work
permit and had to sell things on the streets to survive. Lo laments, “And, it had to be Modou! He was the one who, when I came to talk to
him about my problems—about all the struggles of living here—he would say, ‘Be
strong! We’re going to make it! You’ll see!
We’ll go back to Senegal
someday!’” Modou died leaving a wife and
a daughter whom he had not seen for 11 years, but with whom he talked everyday
Herod was better-informed and more proactive than King Herod who, in Matthew’s
Gospel, was frightened upon news of the birth of the king of the Jews but too
lazy to go nip the problem in the bud himself.
This modern-day Herod was active in a group that is openly racist. His picture appears in an old newspaper photo
of a public demonstration. Somehow, he
was able to get a pistol (not so easy in Western Europe). He went out to kill a few of the people whom
he found so threatening and then killed himself. “He looked like a good person,” said
Ndiaye. “I thought he was a
…an angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother,
and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to
search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13) Since the magi from the East did not come back
to report to Herod where they had found the Jesus, Herod had to send his
soldiers out to do his dirty work. While
Jesus was safe with his immigrant parents in Egypt,
all the children under two years old in and around Bethlehem were slaughtered, much like Ndiaye
and Modou. Hate and fear are never
mild-mannered. They arm themselves and
attack indiscriminately. This time, it’s
the mothers and the children who are left to wail.
God, help us be more
like the worshiping shepherds and wise men and the humble parents around the
manger and less like Herod in his fear and his desire to protect what he feels
belongs to him.
Thank you for being our partner in ministry! May the joy of knowing the Christ Child be
yours in the coming year!