One year ago, journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in Pakistan, his brutal murder videotaped by his killers. His father, Dr. Judea Pearl, spoke with Beliefnet about Daniel, the wife and son he left behind, his message of tolerance, and plans marking the first anniversary of his death.

How did you and your wife as parents handle the inevitable bitterness, grief, and desire for revenge following your son's death? How did you manage to turn your grief into something productive and positive?

Revenge is a very natural and useful reaction that evolution has bestowed upon us, because eliminating the source of one's pain usually eliminates the threats of future dangers. With this perspective of mind, we do not resist revenge-we join it. But we view the source of our pain and the threat of future dangers to be, not the killers themselves, but the hatred that drove them into committing this horrific crime, the kind of demonizing hatred that Bin Laden and his ideological supporters have been spreading in the past two decades, be it explicitly or implicitly. Hatred killed our son, and hatred we will fight for the rest of our lives, with vengeance and tenacity.

In my letter to the people of Pakistan (published in Karachi, July 16, 2002) I wrote: "The loss of Danny will forever tear my heart, but I cannot think of a greater consolation than seeing your children [in Pakistan] pointing at Danny's picture one day and saying: `This is the kind of person I want to be. Like him, I want to be truthful, and friendly, and open-minded.'"

This is our vision of fighting hatred. And the Daniel Pearl Foundation was created to support this vision.

On Beliefnet's Memorial page for Daniel, there were prayers from people of all faiths, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Hindus. Why do you think Daniel's fate united people of different faiths?

One unifying element was people's recognition that Daniel's fate represents an unprecedented turning point in the history of cruelty, and a painful setback in human evolution. The murder weapon in Danny's case was aimed not at a faceless enemy but at a gentle human being, the face of whom became familiar to millions of people around the world. Danny's killers spent a whole week with him, they fed him, talked to him, and watched him 24 hours a day-they must have seen his gentleness and boundless humanity. Killing him so brutally, and before a video camera, marks a new apex in man's inhumanity to man.

Many people were thus shocked to realize that certain ideologies of hate are capable of destroying, overnight, all the safeguards of humanity that our religions and institutions have labored to cultivate through centuries of civilization.

Another unifying force has been the general recognition that Danny was killed for what he represented, and what he represented was us, namely, the ideals that every civilized person aspires to uphold-modernity, openness, pluralism, freedom of inquiry, truth, honesty, and respect for all people. In short, he was killed for representing humanity, and naturally, humanity reacted in a unified way.

Multifaith coalition is needed to stress the point that today's global conflict is not a conflict between religions, but a conflict between a culture open to diversity-and that includes many Muslims-and one that is threatened by openness.

What kind of a person was Danny, and did he have a vision or goal? What are some incidents from his life that show the kind of person he was?

If one can imagine love of life, love of people, love of music, humor, honesty, dignity, and professionalism all embodied in one person, that embodiment was Danny. Friends knew that, when you invite Danny for dinner you better prepare two or three servings, for he is likely to show up with a Bulgarian musician that he met on the subway and a homeless comedian that he talked into a joke-telling contest. No one can remember an occasion in which two persons would fight in the presence of Danny. He had a magic to connect people, to disarm anger, to charm adversity, to joke away differences, to playfully expose pettiness, and to skillfully build common ground.

In fact, the memories that he left behind constitute one of the few glimpses of hope that we currently see for civilization. His life and work are a proof that human biology is capable of sustaining a pure form of humanity, borderless in scope, and unshaken by adversity and conflict.

How are his wife and baby son doing?

Mariane and Adam are doing really fine. Mariane is fully involved in a book about Danny that she hopes to complete later this year. Adam is a source of joy and hope to the whole family. He is a curious and smiley boy with Danny's disposition; he appears to accept the laws of physics for what they are, but awaits the right opportunity to make an improvement.

What are the major accomplishments of the Daniel Pearl Foundation so far? I understand the focus is on journalism and music.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed by Danny's family and friends to continue his lifelong work of cross-cultural understanding through projects in journalism and music. [Pearl played fiddle and mandolin and was in a folk-rock band, Cosmic Gypsies.] One of our most successful projects has been the Daniel Pearl Music Day, celebrated last year on what would have been Danny's 39th birthday. Over 100 concerts in seventeen countries carried the message of tolerance and global harmony to all corners of the earth. Another successful project has been our Youth Writing contest, which challenges teens to write about cultural intolerance and to offer suggestions to promote friendship and respect. More than 400 entries from teens around the country have been received. Our journalism project, which brings Pakistani journalists for a six-month hands-on experience in a U.S. newspaper, is likewise described on our website.

What do you hope will happen on the anniversary of Daniel's death, and have you received any word of interfaith involvement (churches, mosques) in the memorial services?

We have asked every community that plans to commemorate this anniversary to invite a neighboring synagogue, mosque, church or temple of different faith to join in a prayer for a sane and humane world, free of the hatred that took Danny's life.

The reasons for this gesture are several.

First, it is befitting Danny's character and style. Danny was a dialogue-maker who always strove to form new connections among people of different faiths and backgrounds. By bringing together communities who do not normally meet, we are saying to Danny: Your spirit is still alive.

Second, to demonstrate defiance of Danny's killers and their ideological supporters. Danny's murderers vowed to spread fear, hatred, and anti-Semitism. Instead, by standing together today, we build trust and understanding, we make the world safer, and we are telling those murderers: You failed-your crime has resulted in the opposite effect.

Lastly, and most importantly, such services will strengthen our communities. The combination of multifaith attendance, joint statements against intolerance, and the unifying global spirit of the day will serve as powerful catalysts for building lasting alliances against the rising tide of fanaticism, dehumanization, and religious intimidation.

Our sweetest dream is to imagine two children, say a Muslim and a Jew, meeting a day after the memorial and saying to each other: Hey, I saw your parents at the Daniel Pearl memorial last night. We are friends, aren't we?

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad