Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Big Picture

Well, I did it - I graduated and now have my Master of Divinity, but no job to go with that impressive sounding title. I've been in a kind of slump of self-pity about that fact for the last week and a half or so, but am now making a conscious effort to move out of that. When all else fails, I find that focusing on those who are worse off than myself helps me to put things into perspective, and God knows that there are plenty of people in this world worse off than me.

For the past 5 months or so, the Social Justice Committee at Saint Paul has been focused on the issue of the genocide that continues in Darfur, a region in the west of the African country Sudan. We had a Darfur awareness day, complete with tshirts (from sidewalk chalk drawings, lawn signs, a petition and a letter writing campaign. It wasn't huge - since we're really not that big a campus - but I was amazed at how many people asked me "What's Darfur?" or "I don't get it - what's going on over there?" In a world where there are so many things going on at any given time, we just don't hear about may things that don't directly affect our daily lives (such as gas prices, Bush's latest political move, or the lastest American soldier death in Iraq). The truth is that we have access to much more information than that, but most of us just don't take the time, or feel that it's too overwhelming to figure out what else is going on in the world. If it doesn't affect getting dinner on the table that night or our immediate family members, we ignore it or simply don't have time. But is that enough of an excuse? It amazes me when I talk to people from other countries, how much they know about our politics here in the US - including kay senate and house races, not just the latest about our president. Where do get off assuming that everyone else should or needs to know about us but we don't care about what goes on anywhere else?

If you don't know what's going on in Darfur, I recommend you check out the wikipedia article or SaveDarfur website (linked above) or at least do a basic google search. We're talking genocide, not very unlike what happened in Rwanda. If any of you saw Hotel Rwanda, you have a pretty good idea of the situation. We (the UN and US) swore we wouldn't let something like that ever happen again, and yet here we are and it's been going on for years now. The UN has peacekeeping troops they want to send but the leader of Sudan refuses to let them in. This is a government issue, a religious and ethnic issue and a humanitarian crisis. Refugees from towns that have been burned by the govt backed militia are running out of place to go. The nearby country of Chad is overwhelmed and has gotten involved in the fighting as well. But in case you think this doesn't have anything to do with those of us in the US, think about these things:

- we claim a role as "police" of the world and yet this is going on and has been FOR YEARS.

- Africa in general has a large amount of oil that feeds into the world economy, particularly to China from Sudan, and China is becoming (if they aren't already) one of our biggest business partners.

- people in the world think of us as the country with the most power and resources to get things done; if we don't do anything and those millions of people feel that we failed, what kind of things will they think of us? There are countless children in those numbers, who may be approached by terrorist groups to attack the US. Think it hasn't happened before??

- It is a Christian principle that we help those who are hungry, homeless, sick, oppressed and there are people who claim that this is a Christian nation. When are we going to act like it??

One of the best things I got out of seminary was an overall understanding of how things are ultimately connected. Call it "the force", "spiritual energy," "karma" or "God" but I honestly believe that all things in the world are connected by it and each thing we do, each decision we make has consequences for good and bad. What we buy, the laws we pass, the policies our govt makes - all have influence on things not just here in our country, but around the world, and those affect the way other people in the world see us. Those relationships matter, and they have been deteriorating for a while. We have the choice - the decision to act and how to act is yours.

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