For the most part, I like to think I have a crafty way with words. For the last 7 years of higher education, I have been trained how to write clearly, effectively, and persuasively. I’m good at it, and I’m proud of that.
But with this, the subject of human trafficking and rape as a systematic tactic of war, I struggle. I humbly submit that I just do not know how to put into words what I know to be true.
I have yet to be able to properly express how so strongly and deeply this hurts. It burns. And, most of the time, I feel completely powerless to change the world that allows for it. The only reason I can think of to understand our inability to adequately communicate this vicious attack on human rights is that we just don’t have the vocabulary to make clear how dangerous it is to be a woman in most of the world. This is pragmatic, I would argue. Sociologically speaking, if you cannot name the problem, if you cannot even name the monster against whom you are fighting, you can’t change it. And until we can actually name, really name, the pandemic of human trafficking and rape, we are powerless to stop it. The people who perpetrate these crimes against humanity benefit so greatly from our lack of definition and their secondary goal, secondary only to what must be the goal of destroying an entire population, is to keep the rest of us ignorant. And for me, for a very long time, religion was the mask behind which those who were profiting could hide. Or the illusion they could use to distract the fools.
I hated religion so hard. I had a rock solid testimony that religion of any flavor allowed for and justified hate and torture.
Remember, I thought that God hated my family. Even though I believed just about nothing that came out of the mouth of a religious conservative, I somehow trusted them that God only loved wealthy straight white men and their perfect Stepford wives. These people, I decided, were hypocrites, and I hated them. Many religious public figures would spout out scripture and Christian theology to back their fear-mongering rhetoric that damned all people who weren’t exactly like them to a life of misery and an eternity in hell. These, to me, were also the people in the same group who raped children, destroyed the lives of women, and benefitted from the exploitable labor of people they couldn’t care less about.
And you know what? I believed them. I didn’t believe that what they were saying was true, or even remotely civil. The very vitriol that seemed to flow freely from the mouths of anyone holding a Bible made my blood curdle to a breaking point I thought would kill whatever I thought a soul was. I did, however, believe that God was the powerful, hateful, judgmental, cruel being they all made Him out to be. He hated my family, gay people, black people, all women, poor people, and generally any defenseless population against whom atrocities of genocidal proportions were committed.
So, I told God to go screw Himself.
I yelled at Him a lot. I asked him, “What did my family do to deserve to be treated like this? Why do you love these people who are so full of hate and prejudice so much more than my family? Why do you let these women in the Congo suffer? Why are Indian women trafficked as if they are items to be bought and sold? WHY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO LET THIS HAPPEN MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU? WHY IS MY SISTER’S LIFE NOT WORTH FIGHTING FOR!?”
I’m going to go ahead and rank, in no particular order of degree of disgusting, what I believed to be the top five most offensive and ignorant Christian excuses for social inequality (feel free to add your own in the comments section):
- God will take care of everything.
- I have faith it will work out in the end.
- We don’t have all the answers/God has an eternal perspective.
- Everyone has their own free agency
- Why should we worry about their problems? We have our own.
I would like to bear my testimony that this was not close to enough for me. Not even a little bit. In fact, hearing these made me want to run even further and faster away from religion, because clearly, to be a religious person, meant that you lacked the compassion or soul necessary to be a freaking human being.
Before I continue, please consider watching this clip. It will undoubtedly offend the faculties of your soul, but it is the very real reality we help to create and sustain.
These are our sisters. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, over 400,000 women are raped at year. Or about 48 women per hour. The DRC is known as the Rape Capital of the world and is considered by the United Nations the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman. When I use words like “horrible,” or “torture,” or “brutal” to talk about school exams, traffic jams, or heat waves, I am left with very few effective words to describe the status of women in the DRC.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Christians, those who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, were the first people to stand up and walk out on these women, who would stand up for them? If God was not the one to fight to the death for these women’s lives, who was? I also knew that if God wouldn’t fight for these women, and Christians were turning their back on them, then I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. I wanted to be as far away from them as I could get. I believed that to be baptized was to give up on these women and to join the ranks of the rest of the world in ignoring their suffering. To put 100% of my faith in a Being or Power, who I had no reason to trust, to solve this disgusting reality was not an option for me.
But I was so. very. wrong. I haven’t yet reached the point in “my story” of when I experienced the most humbling paradigm shift of my existence, so I have to skip ahead and just tell you the consequences of this new perspective. I now understand that it is not behind religion that we hide from the realities of the atrocities committed against women and children, but behind culture. Doctrine has taught me that not only is Heavenly Father aware of these women, but that the Gospel of Jesus Christ commands us to fight for their lives. It is our responsibility as brothers and sisters to be the risky and radical love that stands up and shouts out that this is not acceptable. Like Peter Luckey said in his sermon, Magnificent Defeat, “unless all of us are free, none of us are free.”
Tonight, at Night on Broadway, we started learning a song called “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables.
It reminded me of Zephaniah 3: 14-20:
- Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem
- The Lord hath taken away thy judgements, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
- In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
- The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
- I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
- Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
- At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather for you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.
To the women and children of the Congo, and to women and children around the globe who are bought and sold as property to be raped and destroyed: Our Heavenly Father is in the midst of you and He is singing the song of people who will not be slaves again. He is working through people who are risking their lives to save yours. We, your brothers and sisters, are standing with you in the fight to give you the right to be free.
My academic training has taught me where we need to be; the Gospel of Jesus Christ has given me the road map of how to get there. Jesus Christ took upon himself the anguish and pain and sins of the world so that we could be free. He submitted himself to be crucified so that we could live. He gave his life so that we would have the right to be free.
To be a Christian, we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. We must let them know that their lives are worth fighting for.
We are our sisters’ keepers.
With so much love,