05 September 2005

Around the world . . .

I read on UMCOR's Web site an article where some UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) staff are visiting the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan right now. When news of Katrina devastation reached the group, they--the Sudanese and the people from the US--stopped their work and prayed for the hurricane victims.

Cut to clip of most citizens of the USA upon first hearing the news of slavery and genocide in Sudan:

We read the newspaper, watch the news, and shake our heads in dismay to know that slavery still exists. And then, as quoted in the film Hotel Rwanda, we'll "go on eating (our) dinners." A few of us say some prayers. A few of us, like Jay Williams, interrupt their lives and go to Sudan to be with the people there and to tell their stories. And sadly, many of us are not even aware or don't even take a minute to care. Some of us even ask (as I've heard from too many people), "What's wrong with Africa? They always have problems killing each other."

On a blog I was reading, one commenter said about the hurricane, "Americans are always the first to step up to the plate when other disasters happen, in other countries, and well have we heard from any other country pledging their help and support?"

Well, yes, first of all, we have heard from other countries. But even more disturbing about this person's thoughts is the idea that Americans (U.S., I presume) are the first to help other countries. Are we delusional in the U.S. to think that we play this great, mighty role of savior to the world? How often have we been the first to step up to bat? With the Asian tsunami, other countries were shocked at how little we were giving in comparison to our wealth. Even when considering the resources we have, it’s disappointing to think of how little we are doing for the Gulf Coast even. Often our other "humanitarian" efforts in the world benefit us as much as (sometimes more than) it benefits others.

I retreat from bashing the United States. This country is my home, and it is beautiful. I miss the beauty of it when I'm away. I am reminded, however, that we so often ignore the suffering of the rest of the world. And the rest of the world does not always ignore us. The prayers of those in Sudan humble me. And I pray that we will humble ourselves in prayer for them, as well as for the rest of the world:

• the 147 people killed today in an Indonesian jet crash;
• the unidentified numbers of Iraqi people killed in the Iraq war along with the 1,879 U.S. service members who have died since the start of the war;
• the more than 950 people who died in Baghdad Aug. 31 in a stampede;
• the sufferers of cholera outbreaks in West Africa,specifically the more than 9,000 infected in Guinea-Bissau;
• people around the world that are still enslaved today;
and this is only the beginning of a devastatingly long list. Please let us stop what we're doing and pray.

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