“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
― Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, 1986 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and author who fought for peace, human rights and simple human decency, died July 2 in New York at the age of 87.
And because of that, tonight I must write very personally.
This is my heritage. Not only did many of my family die in the Holocaust, but this is my heritage: my awareness that anywhere, everywhere, there is the possibility that friend could turn on friend, neighbor on neighbor, colleague on colleague. That fear could feed on fear, hatred on hatred, tormentor on victim. That good people everywhere could disbelieve, and turn aside, and protect their own – until a maelstrom of evil has wrought unspeakable horror.
And this too is my heritage: the commitment embodied by Elie Wiesel to never forget the Holocaust – and to turn that memory into making sure it never happens again. Not to the Jews, not to Nicaragua’s Miskito Indians, Argentina’s “disappeared”, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, South African apartheid victims, not to famine victims in Africa – to name just a few of the oppressed for whom he advocated – not to anyone.
It is that commitment that fueled my prayers when I started World in Prayer 15 years ago.
It is that commitment that fuels my prayers today, as I invite you to join me in praying for:
- Growing evidence, including research released this past week by Duke University Medical Center (U.S.), that trauma not only affects those who experience it, but changes the genes of their descendants.
- The attempted military coup in Turkey, and the Turkish government’s “cleansing” countermeasures that have affected more than 50,000 people — judges, civil servants, military, police and others – and most recently included banning travel by all academics.
- The death this week of 90-year-old Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder and lifelong leader of a vast public welfare organization in Pakistan, that provided birth to death care to millions through hospitals, homeless shelters, rehab centers, orphanages and ambulances. No one who needed services was ever turned away, regardless of creed, cast, sect or ability to pay.
- People in the United Kingdom, where there has been a wave of racist and xenophobic incidents, who have taken to wearing safety pins as a symbol of solidarity with immigrants, a symbol that the wearer is a “safe” person for immigrants to be around.
- Israel, which opened a major crossing point between Israel and Gaza this week to allow the transfer of vehicles carrying goods–for the first time in nine years.
- A group of Black Lives Matters activists in the United States that chose to hold a barbecue with police, instead of holding a protest demonstration
- The 2016 World AIDS conference, held in Durban, South Africa, and described by a friend as the “swirl, conversation, discovery, protest, new networking etc. of 18,000 HIV/AIDS workers from the global effort to stop the epidemic. Commitment, imagination, love, significant, engaged conflicts and disagreement… It’s huge good news and testament to human spirit, resourcefulness and goodwill.”
- Zimbabwe, where the war veterans association, which has played a key and sometimes violent role in supporting the now 90-year-old President Robert Mugabe, has released a statement withdrawing its backing for him, and accusing him of dictatorial tendencies, egocentrism and misrule.
- Researchers from Ethiopia and Sweden who jointly discovered that the odor of a live chicken – yes, a chicken! – “significantly reduced” the number of mosquitoes near sleeping test subjects, which may lead to a completely different approach to preventing malaria.
- Those in every nation who espouse hatred, violence, oppression; the lone-wolf attackers; the militantly self-righteous and power hungry; the xenophobics; the fear-mongerers and the fearful – all the people we would rather get rid of, than view with sympathy.
- Today’s young people everywhere, making choices as to who they will be, how they will live, how deeply they dare love the world and everyone in it.
That commitment fuels my prayers every time I celebrate the Eucharist, remembering, in the Christian tradition, that God so loved the world, that he sent his son to live and die among us. Giving thanks, each time I celebrate the Eucharist, for Jesus Christ, for the Elie Wiesels and the Abdul Sattar Edhis, and for so many people of so many faiths who in their own traditions know and embody and teach the ever-living love of God.
“We tell these stories because perhaps we know that not to listen, not to want to know, would lead you to indifference, and indifference is never an answer. Whoever hates, hates everybody. Whoever kills, kills more than his victims.” – Elie Wiesel
Let us pray:
God, make us story-tellers and memory bearers.
Where there is evil, let us speak out.
Where there is pain, let us heal.
Where there is indifference, give us strength to care.
Where we are divided, draw us together.
Wherever we are, whoever we are, let us love.
–Andee Zetterbaum, founder, World in Prayer