No cemetery was allowing the family of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev to bury his remains until a Christian woman, who was inspired by Jesus' command to love one's enemies, took the initiative this week to help arrange the burial at a Muslim cemetery in Virginia.
"Jesus tells us to – in the parable of the Good Samaritan – to love your neighbor as yourself," Martha Mullen, a 48-year-old mental health counselor from Richmond, Va., told National Public Radio on Friday.
Mullen, who is from a United Methodist church, was listening to NPR this week when she learned that Tsarnaev was unable to be buried due to people's protests. "And it made me think of Jesus' words: Love your enemies. I felt that, also, he was being maligned probably because he was Muslim," she said.
"And your neighbor is not just someone you belong with but someone who is alien to you," Mullen added. "That was the biggest motivation, is that, you know, if I'm going to live my faith, then I'm going to do that which is uncomfortable and not necessarily that's what comfortable."
Thanks to Mullen's efforts, Tsarnaev found a final resting place at a Muslim cemetery, Al-Barzakh Cemetery, in Doswell, Va. Tsarnaev's uncle had made all the arrangements, and Mullen had told the authorities of the willingness of the cemetery without speaking to anyone in the Tsarnaev family.
Asked if she had any security concerns, Mullen replied, "Well, I thought about that, but there's a line in the Scripture that says whether we live or whether we die, we're the Lord's. And I feel like – I don't think anything really horrible is going to happen to me."
She agreed people are probably going to be "upset and irritated and disagree with what this interfaith group has decided to go forward with, but I feel like it was the right thing and it's important to be true to the principle of your faith."
Mullen had also contacted Jewish and Hindu leaders for help. She said her pastor was encouraging in her efforts.
She sent out many emails, including to the Greater Richmond Islamic Society and the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, and the latter was prompt to respond. "I actually Googled Al-Barzakh Cemetery, and they got back to me pretty quickly … They were very forthcoming, and they said that they had spoken amongst themselves, and they felt that it was their moral and ethical obligation to return his body to the earth. And they offered – actually, they offered to donate the burial plot. But as I understand it, the family did recompensate them for that."
Mullen said she sympathizes and understands it's an "uncomfortable situation," but "I'm not entirely comfortable with it myself, but as a matter of faith, I feel it's up to God to judge and it's not up to us … I did what I thought was right," she told WCVB.com.
Caroline County officials have asked the state to ascertain the legality of the burial, although there appears to be no violation on the surface. "If there were, I think we'd try to undo what's been done," NBC quoted Floyd Thomas, chairman of the county board of supervisors, as saying at a press conference.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, his brother and surviving suspect, allegedly carried out bombings during the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.
Dzhokhar, who is in a federal prison, has told the FBI that he and his brother initially planned to explode bombs on the 4th of July in Boston, but they changed their plan after they were able to make the bombs well before the target date.