Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Genocide and our Lame Response

Villagers of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan are being slaughtered and the world is looking elsewhere:

  • The situation in the Nuba Mountains is reminiscent of the catastrophe in Darfur, where the Sudanese government executed an ethnic cleansing campaign against opposition forces and civilians during a conflict that began ion 2003…The region is also home to many Christians – an open target for an Islamic government in the north that persecuted and killed Christians in South Sudan for decades. That campaign has ensnared hundreds of thousands of civilians in pockets of the Nuba Mountains, forcing them to endure bombings, burned villages, rape, torture and starvation. It’s not the first time: During a similar campaign in the Nuba Mountains in the 1990’s, as many as half million residents died. (World Magazine, May 5, 2012, 36)
  • Overall, the UN estimates that violence or hunger has displaced or severely affected some 350,000 residents in Blue Nile and South Kordofan [regions] since last year. As many as 150,000 live in refugee camps in South Sudan and neighboring Ethiopia. (37)
  • [It] is a certain catastrophe that threatens worse casualties if the Sudanese government doesn’t relent or allow humanitarian aid to flow to the region. In mid-April Sudanese officials claimed that South Kordofan doesn’t need food aid, but USAID estimated 200,000 to 250,000 residents are close to running out of food. (37-38)
The media has only briefly covered this ongoing outrage, and that was when George Clooney got involved. Meanwhile, when similar outrages are carried out against Islamic people, the Western media is there and will not let up until Western nations intervene in some capacity. In Libya and Somalia, the Muslim leaders weren’t engaging in genocide against their own people, yet the West intervened. In Egypt, the West was instrumental in forcing the resignation of Mubarak, but he hadn’t committed genocide. Meanwhile, it had seemed likely that in both cases, an equally malevolent Islamic Brotherhood would seize control. The West is now talking about intervening in Syria in favor of the Al Qaeda supported insurgents – hardly innocent victims.

However, there isn’t a word spoken in favor of the innocent, non-insurgent Christians in Sudan and South Sudan. Why not?

I think that part of it can be understood from the perspective of Western antipathy for its Western roots, and many of these roots are a product of Christianity. Similarly, I think that we Christians are walking reminders of God’s righteous condemnation of sin, as Paul suggested:

  • For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. (2 Cor. 2:15-16)
For those who are banking on the adequacy of their own righteousness, we represent the stench of death of their own impending judgment (Romans 1:32). It is therefore understandable that no one would want to be reminded of such a thing and might even be comfortable about the disappearance of this reminder.

However, I think that some of the blame should also fall on us Christians. When I mention persecution – whether the non-life-threatening Western form or outright genocide-form - to other Christians, I’m often confronted with what sounds like a dismissal: “Well, the Bible tells us that that we are going to suffer persecution.”

Although this is true, it certainly doesn’t mean that we are without responsibility in this matter:

  • Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27).
It might be inevitable that there will always be the poor, “orphans and widows,” but this fact doesn’t alleviate us of our God-mandated responsibilities. Likewise, it might have been fated that the victim on the road to Jericho would be left-for-dead by his robbers, but Jesus made it very obvious that we are responsible to treat all as “neighbors,” whether the persecution is fated or not.

Perhaps, more subtly, educated Christians have been inculcated with a university-bred strain of moral-universalism – that we should be equally concerned about the Eskimo as we should about our cousin who lives next-door.

Although Christian concern regards all as “neighbors,” the Bible does teach that we have an overriding responsibility for our wives, children and parents, and even for those of our spiritual family (Gal. 6:10).

I even feel uncomfortable as I write this. Many Christians will regard this as a form of chauvinism – “it’s all about me and my group” - and therefore experience discomfort in raising their cries against the persecution of Christians.

We see the chauvinism of the whites, the blacks, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Jews, and even the Americans, and we attempt to distance ourselves.

However, Christian “chauvinism” is different. Jesus had prayed:

  • "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity [of love] to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
According to Jesus, one way to love others is be unified in love. In this way, they will see the reality of the Cross and be drawn. What greater blessing is there?



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