Wednesday, June 8, 2011

a bit of shame-faced awareness raising

Have you seen the film Blood Diamond? I think it's a rather brilliant film, so when it came on TV a few weeks ago, I thought I might watch. After about 30 seconds, my eyes were filled with tears and I was burying my head in my pillow. Yes, it's a sad film, but not 30 second sob sad. Yes, it's a scary film, but not horror in 30 seconds scary.

I immediately understood what was going on with me. The story had taken on real-life. It wasn't just a heartbreaking tale of a faraway land, it was a metaphor for the lives of people I lived with, laughed with and cried with. The boy soldiers, check. The women fleeing horny men with guns, check. The family of refugees separated by war and doing everything to reunite, check. Sure, I'm none of those people, in fact most of my time is spent in rooms that have air-conditioning and Internet radio. I've only a few times met people who fit those descriptions.

But even so, I feel like it hits home. My colleagues have been there and have seen it, in some cases lived it. The people in a film like Blood Diamond have experienced things like the people I went to the Dar to serve. And nothing has improved for them. Nothing. Maybe they're worse-off, and on some days, the only thing for which I'm grateful is that I "escaped" with minimal emotional trauma.

Today I was catching up on news in Sue Dan and discovered that most of it is bad. I was sent four different accounts of fighting in a border town. Very bad. One of the accounts was an eyewitness account but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to share it publicly so I won't. The New York Times article is much dryer and easier to read, but the story is still ugly:
"On Sunday, members of the southern military raided a police station in the city of Kadugli, looting weapons, United Nations officials said. Clashes broke out Sunday evening between the northern and southern armies about 60 miles away, they said. On Monday evening, fighting broke out ... with 10 tanks ... stationed throughout the town..."

The other accounts add details about people fleeing their homes but having nowhere to hide, other people staying in their houses for days on end, the fact that the market is closed for all business but shooting, lack of food or water or fuel... hospital patients preferring to take their chances running through the countryside with no treatment than to sit as ducks in the hospital, an increasing death toll, new mothers giving birth without any water to drink.

It's bad, and it's not the first city in the area to break out: If you want more, you can google-news "Abyei". Brace yourself.

There's a novel which portrays wartime Sue Dan that is fabulously written and horridly graphic. One day I was sitting in a café in Kht reading a battle scene from the book and I was terrified to walk back to my guesthouse, realising that the perpetrators in the book might very well be the men passing me on the streets at that moment. I'm not done reading it - must take that kind of stuff in tiny gulps. The novel is called Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo. If you're emotionally at a point where you can allow your heart to break for a part of the world I'm guessing most of my readers have never been and will never visit, I definitely recommend it. It tells the story better than the news, and now it has made the news stories come alive for me with a sharp pang somewhere deep in my belly.

Here's a little tiny excerpt, just to give a taste of the battle... battles:
The destruction was worse than he'd feared. Through a thin canopy of smoke, bomb craters, pulverized buildings, and puddles of fire passed below... Ghastly was what it was. Franco and Lily dead, Manfred slightly injured but in severe shock. Michael couldn't estimate how many others had been killed or severely injured. He was going to collect the survivors and the walking wounded and lead them to the airstrip on foot... They were carrying a body on a stretcher, covered by a blanket and attended by an assembly of eager flies whose buzzing was audible from several yards away.

That war ended but it's now coming back. This country needs our prayers... I don't know that anything else will help!

Because your hearts are big, I am trusting that my Imperfect Prose friends will not only accept me being a bit emotional and all-over-the-place, but maybe a few of you will pray too.

17 comments:

HisFireFly said...

I know those tears - they fall even now, reading your post.

We watched Blood Diamond the first time on the flight home from Uganda .. and I was inconsolable - I thank the Lord that He has kept me that way - for I do not want to forget

Kath said...

yes, the pain of people and the world hurts us. thanks for this reminder of the terrible things that go on every day, we need to remember.
Kath

tinuviel said...

Lord, have mercy on that place and its people!

My sister-in-law recommended "What Is the What," another novel on that region, and I'm still crawling through it 18 months later. Too much suffering. Even small doses are difficult to take in.

Thank you for the call to prayer. Grace and peace to you in Jesus.

Bristol said...

Kati... I read this post with a heavy heart. I think it's so so important to keep grieving the hurts of the world and not become desensitized, so I'm glad your heart is still open and feeling. But it's so much to take in. I don't even know what to say today. Praying this morning... with you, for you, for our world. Thanks for your courage and honesty.

eloranicole said...

a couple years ago, right when africa became like a second breath to me, i read a book by a reporter who experienced the conflict in the congo and the horrors brought on by nkunda. i would sit on my couch, tears streaming down my face, and wonder if i could even finish the book. last year we went to kibera for two weeks and even now i can't sit down to write the words - the real ones begging to be let out - because my heart still twists on itself.

the pain - the injustice - it never makes sense. but one thing is certain: i prayed many years ago for Christ to break my heart for what breaks His - and i know with every fiber of my being when i look in the eyes of the kids who make kibera home, that their life is not forgotten by One who sees everything.

and it's only Him who can make things right.

LauraX said...

oh sweet Kati...I cannot imagine the terror, though I've read books like Left to Tell by Immculee Ilibagiza, and many accounts of the holocaust in Europe...I do what I can to support groups like Save Darfur, MerciCorp, American Jewish World Service, Church World Service with financial donations...I sign petitions, and make phone calls to congress members...but it feels like so very little in the face of the great suffering around the world...thank you for sharing your voice for making sure we see, and hear and do not close our hearts.

Lisa notes... said...

I'm praying but am too wimpy to read the book or watch the movie. :-( Lord, forgive. I want to be aware of such things, but not too closely...

Thankful for you, Kati. Don't let us get too comfortable. You serve many purposes. You bless me.

Brian Miller said...

i enjoyed blood diamond in a sense that it is painful to watch and to think about...thanks for the book ref, i will def read it...i hope this year to go to africa for the first time...

Jodi said...

Yes, Kati; I will pray. I have friends who are currently stuck (no fuel), but working, in an area I can't mention. Prayer is all we can do; prayer is everything, I believe. Bless you. I hope you find comfort and strength.

Nancy said...

I can hardly believe the life you live. Thanks for using this place to show us through your eyes. I read Lost Boys of Sudan and was undone. I kept thinking, "How does anyone who survives such things actually survive?" Not only did some survivors live to tell their tales, they praised God for His goodness and protection in their lives. How can this be? Sometimes my faith seems so shallow.

happygirl said...

I haven't seen Blood Diamond, but I feel your pain through the telling. Kati you are constantly in my prayers. Stay safe and be brave. God is good and you are in the battle.

HopeUnbroken said...

praying. . .
thanks for the sharing. and always keeping it real. it's one of the things i appreciate most about you and your writing.

David Nilsen said...

I'm not usually an Edward Zwick fan, but hearing how that movie resonated with you based on your experiences definitely puts it in a different light for me. Peace of Christ to you, Kati. We will pray, even when it feels futile.

Anna said...

Kati, I appreciate hearing about the reality that is close to you, and also in places you've been, even though sometimes the circumstances are quite raw and unspeakable. I haven't lived through war, suffered to find water or food, lived in fear of danger or attack. But to read it from someone who is there makes it more real and is also a prick I need to show me how comfortable my life is. Your sharing is as much for us as it is for them.

alittlebitograce said...

We have people on the ground in S. Sue Dan. The girl I'm mentoring has about a month left of her internship there. We've been getting some news and prayer requests. Thank you for the reminder to pray.

I've also read " What is the What". I found it extremely hard, not so much because of what happened to him in Sudan, but how he was treated when he came to the US as a refugee. Reading that book has caused me to become even more concerned about refugee rights in Canada.

emily wierenga said...

sweet kati, i am praying. thank you for opening our eyes and our hearts. xo

Bethany Ann said...

you're not "all over the place"; you're sharing a need with your faith community. seems pretty single to me.

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