Christian Witness of Burying the Dead … Even Terrorist Suspects

by Barry Moser
by Barry Moser
As an act of Christian witness Martha Mullen arranged for the burial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Her story calls to mind the story of Rizpah in 2 Samuel. Rizpah kept vigil for months over the exposed bodies of her two sons whom King David, for political reasons, had handed over to be killed.

“She allowed no bird to set upon them by day nor any wild beast by night” (21:10). Eventually, Rizpah’s campaign forced David to give her sons, and the others killed with them, a proper burial.

One of the corporal works of mercy taught by the Catholic church is to bury the dead. No matter who they are. I’m grateful for Methodist Martha Mullen’s extraordinary witness.

Here’s an excerpt from the Boston Globe interview with Mullen:

… ‘‘I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned,’’ Martha Mullen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. ‘‘But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that’s what God calls us to do.’’

Tsarnaev, 26, was quietly buried Thursday at a small Islamic cemetery in rural Caroline County. His body had remained at a Worcester, Mass., funeral parlor since he was killed April 19 in a gunfight with police, days after the bombings that killed three and injured more than 260 in downtown Boston.

Cemeteries in Massachusetts and several other states refused to accept the remains. With costs to protect the funeral home mounting, Worcester police appealed for help finding a place to bury Tsarnaev.

Mullen said she was at a Starbucks when she heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.

‘‘My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies,’’ she said.

Then she had an epiphany.

‘‘I thought someone ought to do something about this — and I am someone,’’ Mullen said.

So Mullen, a mental health counselor in private practice and a graduate of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, sent emails to various faith organizations to see what could be done. She heard back from Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which arranged for a funeral plot at the Al-Barzakh cemetery. ‘‘It was an interfaith effort,’’ she said.

Mullen, a member of the United Methodist Church, said she was motivated by her own faith and that she had the full support of her pastor.

‘‘Nobody is without sin,’’ she said. ‘‘Certainly this was a horrific act, but he’s dead and what happened is between him and God. We just need to bury his body and move forward. People were making an issue and detracting from the healing that needed to take place.’’ …

Read the whole article.

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