How can I ask forgiveness for letting a person die?
How can we ask forgiveness not just for ourselves, but for the whole world? Not just for this moment in time, but for all of human history, for all lives to come?
Four sleeping homeless people were run over – apparently deliberately – by a truck in New Mexico, United States. One died – a woman who liked to read, her friends said; the “guys” in the truck have not been caught. In Paris, France, a lynch mob attacked a teenage Roma (Gypsy) boy, leaving him badly injured.
How can we, who were not in either of those places, ask forgiveness? Dear God, what have we done, or left undone, that let this happen?
Last week, for the first time in human history, a global summit was held on ending sexual violence in conflict. (In fact, it’s only been since World War II, that the international community generally accepted the concept of crimes of war.)
How can we ask forgiveness for the thousands of years, and regimes, and places where the horrors of war were taken for granted as part of the very nature of war? How can we ask forgiveness for those who still glorify rape, pillage, murder, and terrorizing of non-combatants and children? How can we ask – nay, plead – for those who have been raped to be given the grace of self-forgiveness?
The United Nations is appealing for more than $1 billion to aid South Sudan, warning that tens of thousands of children affected by the past six months of civil war could die this year without this assistance. In Myanmar, a senior U.N. official says she witnessed a level of human suffering she had never seen before in camps for some 140,000 stateless Muslim Rohingya. At least 50,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are working, often in dire conditions and for 12 hours a day, to pay for food and shelter for their families. In Kenya, child labor and trafficking keep millions out of school.
God, how can we bear the burden of knowing this is going on, and of being powerless to stop it? How can we look at our own children – and ask forgiveness that there are so many little ones who are not free to embrace learning and growing in health and safety and joy?
Iraq appears to be descending into civil war. Afghanistan is increasingly unstable. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have both sent extra troops to their shared border after gunfire broke out, ending months of relative calm. Hundreds of Pakistani families have fled from a surge of fighting between Pakistani government forces and militants into neighboring Afghanistan.
How can we ask forgiveness for not stepping in to end these conflicts? How can we ask forgiveness for the damage done, when we do? God, how can we ask forgiveness when we are still uncertain about what is right?
Dearest God, sometimes following you can be so unsettling, when all we want is peace.
Thank you…for consciences that make us ask questions like these.
Thank you…for allowing us to be uncomfortable, when there are no easy answers.
Thank you…for making us in your own image, longing to take every hurting person under our wings.
Thank you…just for being God.