Sunday, July 28, 2013

From Whence Shall my Help Come?

Syrian Refugee Family - Lebanon

From Whence Shall my Help Come?
On the Lebanese side of the border with Syria, this very morning, a mother is nursing a newborn in a grimy tent huddled alongside hundreds of other grimy tents in the dust bowl that is a UN refugee camp. She watches her baby boy feed hungrily, notices that his cheeks are growing fatter even as her own body is dwindling, victim of refugee rations and the loss of appetite that comes with living in constant worry and fear. And she can't help but wonder if bringing this child into a world of war and madness isn't itself madness, and if someday soon, this baby boy will be nothing more to the warlords than cannon fodder.

            But she is just one casualty among the thousands rendered helpless and lost by the civil war in Syria. For all wars have at least these 10 things in common:

1.     principles of justice, honour and fairness are set aside when men resort to arms to settle their differences. The first victim of war is truth,

2.     food is stolen from the mouths of children to pay for guns and bullets,

3.     patriotism becomes the highest ideal and soldiers are lauded as the saviours of the nation,

4.     nothing is sacred any longer except an unconditional dedication to the cause of the conflict,

5.     dissenters to the military option are branded as traitors; prophetic voices must be silenced,

6.     good men turn into haters, trained to see the opponent as demonic and worthy of death,

7.     combat soldiers come home wounded, disappointed and, often, ill with an illness they pass on to their families and friends, their neighbours and the nation they thought they were defending,

8.     compassion for the vulnerable is set aside; power has bigger fish to fry than the needs of the poor,

9.     atrocities are disguised in euphemism: rendition, collateral damage, ordinance, just war,

10.  neighbour is turned against neighbour as every expressed opinion is met with suspicion,

            And in every war that ever was, women have sat in dirty places that are not their home and have looked down at nursing sons and wondered; for what madness have I given birth, for what unholy future am I nourishing this man child? Prophetic voices have been ridiculed, sidelined or thrown into wells where no one will hear their witness. It's in the nature of the beast we call war.

            As Mennonites, we are well-placed to speak up for all the men and women raising children in refugee camps. We too have been refugees. Our spiritual heritage has taught us what an abomination it is to take another person's life, even in battle. We have no Jeremiah among us, but we have our prophetic voices: John Howard Yoder, Rudy Wiebe, David Schroeder, Menno Simons who declared to us that true evangelical faith finds its Christ-like form in the feeding of the hungry and the clothing of the naked.

            The body of Christ has many parts; we have been assigned a role as that arm of Christ that looks out for the weak and the vulnerable, that speaks to power, urging them to make choices that don't resort to weapons of murder and destruction, that proclaims that history teaches us that there is no just war.

            In parts of our Mennonite community these days, flags are flying at the fronts of churches, the rhetoric of winners and losers is gradually replacing the humble admonitions of the Sermon on the Mount, the creation model is giving way to the economic, patriotic model. 

            We too have begun to find our prophets’ messages uncomfortable . . . and have been tempted to throw them and their rantings down the well.

            For the sake of the mother and child in the Lebanese refugee camp if for no bigger reason, we dare not be silent in times like these.

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