Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hiker Update: Shane and Josh Sentenced to Eight Years

When I was a boy we went through a phase where we played marbles a lot. We often went next door to Dennis Kappos' house to play. He had a flat driveway and lots of marbles. The houses were close together in our Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, with a space just wide enough for your car and three feet of lawn in between. The Yeagers* and Turners, two families without children, lived in the two houses beyond Dennis' house and their manicured lawns were maintained with extreme care.

It must have been exasperating for Mrs. Y to see these wee boys always gathering just a few feet from her yard because we knew it was forbidden for us to tread there. Sometimes she would watch out her window to see if there was mischief going. Occasionally she would bark at us, and on one occasion I remember a marble shooting onto the grass and Mrs. Y. furiously rushing out across her lawn in an attempt to retrieve it, as if the offending marble weight a half ton and might permanently damage the surface of the yard. Evidently it never occurred to her that here heels were doing more damage than any size marble ever could.

This is the story that popped into my head when I read this morning's paper announcing a verdict in the Iran trespassing case involving Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal who were taken into custody more than two years ago. Shane and Josh have now been sentenced. Iran television announced that they have each been sentenced three years for illegally trespassing and five years for spying on behalf of the U.S.

Like Mrs. Y. and the marbles, the behavior seems so out of proportion to the real offense that it ought to be comical. Tragically we are discussing a very lengthy segment in these young men's lives, and the lives of their loved ones. There is nothing funny about it.

In some ways I can half understand the Iranian argument that these young men were spies. Over and over again we read books and stories about how the U.S. trained and utilized Delta Force heroes to infiltrate various hot spots incognito. The net result of these clandestine actions is to cause our adversaries to distrust anyone who happens to be American, or foreign. Missionary work and humanitarian aid activities become riskier when there is a shadow of doubt as regards the real motivations of those implementing these activities.

So it is that Shane and Josh have now been stamped as spies by a nation with whom we do not have diplomatic relations.

There is still a basis for maintaining hope that this ordeal will be over sooner than later. According to a Washington Post article, "the report (of the young men being sentenced), although carried on Iran’s highly controlled state media, was not immediately confirmed by authorities."

Let's keep Shane and Josh, and their loved ones, in our prayers.

*Yeagers and Turners: Not their real names.

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