I recently finished reading a great book about the Lost Boys of Sudan. “They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky” tells the story of several boys, well now they are adult men, who fled their villages during a period of war. Against all odds, these boys crossed deserts, survived wild animals, and dodged bullets and bombs left and right. And they were all no older than seven years old. For years, they walked and traveled – first to refugee camps in Ethiopia and then to Kenya when the situation in Ethiopia turned for the worse.
As I read the book, I found myself thinking that although this was a horrible situation that it happened along time ago. The story starts in the 90s and carries through to 2001 when the authors were able to come to the United States. Unfortunately, however, the conflict in Sudan persists. I am not sure if it is a continuation of the same one from a few decades ago or if a new conflict has emerged, all I know is that Sudan is still bombing and starving its citizens and that is heartbreaking.
Although Sudan is very far away, the people and the situation that they are going through matters. Not just in a oh, I feel sorry for you kind of way – pity only dehumanizes people and does not really provoke any change. But the people of Sudan matter because they are intrinsically connected to all of us. We identify with their pain and suffering, not only because it threatens justice everywhere, but also because we feel it within our own beings.
This goes in line with the African philosophy, Ubuntu. Ubuntu in its simplest definition is explained as such: I am what I am because of who we all are. Bishop Desmond Tutu further describes this philosophy:
A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
The principle of Ubuntu, however, has deeper origins than Africa. Actually, if we look to scripture we will find the spirit of this philosophy all over the place. It starts in Genesis 4, when God wants Cain to give an account of his brother Abel, who he murdered, saying that the blood of his brother was calling to God from the ground. Although Cain is explicitly involved in this injustice, we ourselves become complicit actors in the evils of our day when we keep our mouths shut and do nothing. Whether we are explicitly or complicity involved, God’s question to all of us remains the same – Where is ‘Abel’ your brother, or perhaps instead where is the ‘Sudanese refugee’ your brother, or the ‘widow’ your sister, the ‘orphan boy’ your son, ‘the slain Syrians’ your neighbors, the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the voiceless. Their pain, their suffering, their blood calls out to God and He holds us accountable for their whereabouts because we belong to them and they belong to us.
So how are you responding to God’s question? Where are the oppressed and the marginalized in your midst, and what is God calling you to do about it?