Thursday, October 30, 2008

For My Sisters in the DRC

The cost of Sarah Palin's wardrobe. Joe the Plumber. The amount of money Sarah Palin's makeup artist is paid. Anger at political signs being vandalized. Etc., etc. These are the things getting tons of publicity these days. Sure, there's also talk about the ups and mostly downs of the Dow, and of course day-by-day watching of "the polls." Oh, and the World Series.

What's not being talked about is what's going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I'm the first to admit I had no idea what was going on. I heard a word here or there about a "Congo week" to raise awareness. One friend on Facebook had a status one day that said she was turning off her cell phone for the DRC. Only days later did I find out why (a key component of cell phones is mined there).

I think Eve Ensler writes about what's going on over there, particularly to the women, best here. Please read it carefully, and then consider these two statements:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." --Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC

If we do nothing, we are not remaining neutral or "minding our own business." Doing nothing to stop violence and oppression is the same as helping those doing it.

A few years ago, I saw the film Hotel Rwanda. I left the theater and walked through Harlem to my apartment with tears streaming down my face. It was not simply the events of the film or the Rwandan genocide itself that touched me, but the anguish of the terrified people wondering why no one was coming to help them, wondering why, if the people in Europe and the US knew what was happening, they did nothing. It touched me because I knew we had not learned. It had happened during the Holocaust. It had happened with the Khmer Rouge. And, at the time the movie was released, the same thing was going on right then in the Sudan (and still is).

And now the DRC.

The question is, why? Is it because the stories that come out of these places are so atrocious we cannot believe it could possibly be that bad? Is it because these people are Other--they're not like us, so we don't really care that much--or, as Ms. Ensler suggests, because much of the violence is done against women?

I don't know. I do know that I can no longer say I didn't know about it. And if you're reading this, neither can you. And now that I feels like one of those situations where there's nothing I can do.

But I can tell you, and I can tell others, and so can you. Spread the word. Offer it up during prayer requests at your church. Mention it to your friends. Forward this post and any others you find about it. Together we can make sure no one says they didn't know. That's the first step.

Then, maybe after election day, start contacting your government officials. Contact the ones in office now AND the newly elected. Make sure those who are in office until January do whatever they can in the next two months to help stop this, and make sure those coming in to office know you want them to make the conflict in the DRC a priority right off the bat.

And perhaps most importantly, make this pledge for yourself: "I will not stand by."

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