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Posts tagged ‘Justice’

The blanket mafia and the Syrian refugees unite

The Car and us

Farah, she keeps a cigarette behind her ear and when she laughs it sounds like beads falling. Her long, black curls are tied in a knot, kind of, but not really. She was as excited as I was when we found a secondhand shop with cheap army jackets.

Her sixteen-year-old Peugeot screamed as it was forced up the steep hills of the mountains of Lebanon. It wanted to die, but survived. Barely. Inside, Farah played Feiruz, the Lebanese woman who sings her tones all around the world. She apologized for polluting the fresh air with her cigarette smoke, and begged us to share her favorite bread with her.

We were on a mission. A mission to find Syrian refugees living in camps in the vast Beeka Valley. Finding them was not hard. Along the road, and across fields one spotted the primitive tents built with old billboards. Like mushrooms they seemed to pop up everywhere.

“Don’t go there,” the lady at the embassy had warned us. “There are too many people like you there already.” She didn’t say it, but you could tell she wanted to: “We don’t need you.” She did however say: “The UN takes care of everything. We give them loads of money. Small groups like yours often make things worse.” I had fumed on the inside, and some of it had to spill over. “I can give you a list longer than you can imagine of all the times they have failed. I believe that it is exactly small groups like ours that can be very effective in the work we do.”

The rest told us the opposite. “The needs are vast and they are not being met. Kids don’t get to go to school. There is not enough food. No medical care. Not enough warm clothes during the cold.”

We pulled over by the side of the road and walked into a small community of refugees. They looked surprised at first. “Why did we come for a visit?” “Who were we?” Farah smiled her galaxy smile and the battle was won. Soon there were smiles everywhere, smiles and curious stares. “Come with us,” it was motioned and we followed. We walked into the home as the unexpected and unknown guests of a refugee family. Inside gold-colored cloth draped the walls. There were thin futons to sit on on the floor. Pillows were placed by us so we would have something to lean on while we were sitting. Glasses with drinks were brought out.

My own black t-shirt and army-green pants looked hopelessly boring in comparison the the multicolored dresses the women were wearing, the beads and the sequins lighting up the room much like their smiles.

“We just want to get to know you. We want to hear your stories,” we explained, and they willingly shared. They shared about the destroyed homes, the flight across the mountains, about fleeing barefoot and with nothing other than the clothes they were wearing. They spoke of fear and loss. They talked about wanting the best for their children and about how they wish they could have invited us for a feast and slaughtered a goat the way they would have back in their own village.

One lady inched close to me and leaned towards my shoulders and I felt in an instant that we were sisters, although we spoke different languages and had lived lives as different as sugar and salt. The children came to sit close too. I drew a simple drawing and the smiles came easily. They did the same for me. Drew something they wanted me to see.

A man came inside and joined us. “What we have seen we cannot explain,” he said. “We saw people slaughtering people. They put people on the floor and shut them. This I saw myself. I ran with my family because children cannot live with these kinds of memories. We had to take them away.” He fled with his wife who was 8 months pregnant. The baby was born soon after they arrived. I held the baby, now 28 days old, and touched his thick black hair while he slept.

They told us they are cold and hungry here. They feel safe, but there is no school for the kids. They are trying to be content, but they only have two blankets to share when there are eight people in the family.

We said our goodbyes and they kissed us. We went for a new mission. To find blankets. After several failed attempts we ended up at a secondhand store called The King’s Vision. Nice name, we thought, although we weren’t sure why the King wanted such a vision. The store was run by something that appeared to be a family or the mafia, or perhaps both. Men with lots of grease in their hair and cigarettes attached to their lower lip looked grumpy and not at all keen on giving us a deal, let alone a special deal. Down in the basement were the blankets. One by one we pulled them down from the rods they had been hung on. There were the thick ones displaying Dora the Explorer, and the ones that had been eaten by moths. And then there was the rest. In the end we counted almost 50 blankets. Not enough for all the people in the camp, but it was a start.

Farah started the negotiating and for a while it sounded grim. She rolled her eyes, and while she still smiled, the smile started to look more and more strained. She pointed to the moth holes and lifted the thinnest blankets up to show that these were worth next to nothing. In the end it seemed like a deal was made, but we didn’t know how or what. Just: It was done. Just: Pay us here, and don’t let the big guy upstairs see how much you give us. Just: We will give you a receipt, but it is OK if the receipt is just a piece of paper from our notebook right here?

How does one bring four people and 50 blankets in a little Peugeot the size of a go-cart, and that already has a trunk full of film gear and paraphernalia? Tie it to the roof. No roof rack was needed, just some string and some rope and, voila, a bag almost as big as the car was safely strapped to the roof, making the car look like it was pregnant.

We thanked the kind mafia family and promised not to tell the dad. In the end they were smiling and wishing us well. One could almost detect a desire to go with us. And we were off.

Arriving at the camp some hours later we again surprised them. They had not expected us to come back. It felt good. With a lot of commotion, shouting, some pushing and even some tears Farah and and team managed to deliver all the blankets as fairly as they possibly could. It was nice to be able to give, but hard to think that even with our small gift they would still not be warm enough tonight. Just warmer.

We sat down to chat with our new friends when it was all over. The connection was even deeper. We were friends now. “We want you to come back,” they said. “We like you.” Then they added: “Sometimes the big aid organisations come here and they have no time for us. They just come to do their own thing. We like you because when you came you saw our children. You took the time to pay attention to them. We can tell you care about us.”

So here we were, the small aid organization that arrived in an even smaller Peugeot. We have no big budget, we had no logo to flash. But the people that mattered gave us the vote of confidence we needed. They saw that we cared and they saw that we came to serve. To them that mattered the most.

50 blankets and an afternoon shared. I think this is how change starts. It feels good to know we did the right thing. Now to continue on that track.

 

Suddenly I understand why Holocaust happened

These two Rohingya siblings I recently met in Myanmar. If the government gets their way, there will soon be no more Rohingya.

These two Rohingya siblings I recently met in Myanmar. If the government gets their way, there will soon be no more Rohingya.

”How could they?” I have been wondering while listening to lots of talks on the Holocaust. I have read books. I have seen movies. I have cried. I have wished that what I learned wasn’t true. People cannot be this evil. Had Hitler come on to the stage today, we would not have accepted his horrifying values and actions. We have a common understanding of what is right and what is wrong, don’t we? One doesn’t let innocent people die in the most gruesome ways just because they belong to a certain ethnic group. We just don’t.

I was young when the massacres happened in Rwanda. What happened to innocent and defenseless people was so dreadful that we can’t even imagine evil of this magnitude. Between 500,000 and one million Tutsis were brutally slaughtered. The world knew what was about to happen, but was idly watching from the sidelines. “This kind of evil must never happen again,” promised the world afterwards.

I have been naive. I have thought that the world is so much better today than it was then. We are good people. We understand more about justice now than then. We are living in the most civilized time of history. Little by little, however, I realize that the world is not so much different now than it was then. The Holocaust was a result of a widespread hate towards the Jews. More and more often the Jews were considered a problem in society, a problem that needed to be taken care of should society survive. Hitler succeeded in segregating the Jews from the rest of society in his Germany.

This sounds frightfully familiar. As a simple experiment I exchange the world Jew with Muslim, immigrant or asylum seeker. I exchange Germany with any European nation, or with the USA. I swap Hitler with the words Our government, politicians, or, should I try: Presidential candidates. Suddenly I have sentences taken directly from the debates in society today: Muslims/ immigrants/asylum seekers are more and more often seen as a problem in society, a problem that must be fixed if society is to survive. In Norway/USA (or insert your own country) the aim is to segregate the Muslims/ immigrants/asylum seekers from the rest of society.  

The massacres of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda was the result of an increased hatred towards the minority group. The biggest ethnic group in the country, the Hutus,  blamed the nation’s growing social problems, the financial challenges and the political pressure on the Tutsis. The long-lasting hatred and distrust lead to the biggest genocide of our time. Again I get associations to current situations around the world. I am reminded of leaders, presidential candidates and others who blame the Muslims/ immigrants/asylum seekers for growing social problems as well as the financial challenges we will soon be faced with.

One doesn’t suddenly one day wake up and hate Jews. Nobody was born with an inherent hatred for Tutsis. Racism towards people from different ethnic groups, cultures, religions and nations is a process. The same way we raise our kids by setting an example, by our expressed words and opinions, by our actions and admonitions, our society is raised by our leaders that continuously repeat the same thoughts and sentiments. We are influenced by actions and words that are uttered publicly.

It doesn’t happen overnight that we decide it is OK to blame our problems and challenges on a people group we hardly know. This happens over time. This happens when somebody tells you the reason there is so much crime is because of the damned immigrants. It happens when a journalist writes about the challenges we will face because of the growing number of immigrants in the country. This happens when your friends warn you against talking to people with a foreign background and dark skin. They may rape you.  It happens when people of influence day after day are allowed to freely speak of the danger of having these people come into our countries, and are serious when they say that they people should be sent back to where they came from. The reason they crossed mountains and oceans, defied hunger, cold and constant humiliation, they say, was because they wanted our wealth. This is what happened in Nazi Germany, and this is in fact what is happening to the Rohingya in Myanmar today.

I must say I am concerned. In Europe the political parties critical to immigration are growing in leaps and bounds. Statements that before were taboo because they were considered racist, are now OK to say in public. In the US, the presidential candidate who is getting the most votes, and the most attention, is getting away with saying things about immigrants and Muslims that are so outrageous that one can wonder if Hitler perhaps has been reincarnated.

There are times that I feel like the minority. I believe that it isn’t asking too much that we too should share the burden of poverty and oppression. I miss hearing leaders talking about the people coming to our countries for refuge as human beings in desperate need. I miss hearing people saying that all humans are created with the same value, and therefore we need to treat them as our neighbors. It is time we wake up. It is why I just wrote this.

This blog was originally written in Norwegian and read by thousands. Last I checked it had been shared 7,100 times. Since it got so much attention, I decided to translate it and share it here. 

 

 

The prince stood us up and the fishermen danced

I promised updates, and all you got was nothing. I was in Burma (that I have now started calling Myanmar because there are just so many other things to worry about than what to call a country). I thought I would write interesting and engaging travelogs daily. My ambitions that were too high and very unrealistic. Last time I wrote a blog, I shared about meeting a prince. 

We did meet him. He worked at a restaurant that made the best tea-leaf salad. In between waiting on tables, he told us part of his story. The one about his dad being a prince, but now he runs a guesthouse. The one about  the government seizing their land and their power. But he was so busy serving the Western backpackers that he couldn’t keep talking to us.

Instead he introduced us to his pregnant wife who runs a store that sells lady-nicnacs, like hair pins, and pantyhose. We talked to her for a long time while she had a cup of hot water and we shared a bottle of Myanmar beer. She was sweet and smart. The kind of person one can become best friends with.

The next day we put on our nicest outfits, bought some fruit at the market and went to meet the prince at the street corner. But he didn’t show up. When we called him, he said his dad had to go away for business and he himself was really busy at his restaurant since it was New Year and this was the most hectic time of the year for a restaurant owner in N Sh.

It sounds like I am making this up, or that the “prince” was making his story up. The thing is, I think he told us the truth. Except, perhaps, the reason he gave for not wanting to see us.

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We were in a part of Myanmar called Shan state. The Shan is the largest ethnic group in the country, and they did, indeed, have their own kingdoms that was ruled by many princes, saophas. After Burma gained their independence in 1948, the Shan with their saophas agreed to turn all the small kingdoms into one—Shan state. The princes still had their positions, but their independent power was more limited. However, when General Ne Win and his military overthrew the government in 1962, he also abolished the Shan saopha system. He took their land and assets, arrested and/or killed the princes and forced the others, with their families, to flee the country. The rest is history.

When the prince didn’t show, we rented bicycles and rode around the largest lake in the country, Inle Lake. The scenery was spectacular, the roads still lonesome, say from an occasional car or tourbus. Along the roads, bamboo houses, patches of vegetable gardens, and fields of sugar cane filled the landscape. I could almost be convinced that this place was paradise. The only struggle facing the inhabitants here may have been mosquitos.

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A boat trip on the lake allowed us to see the famous fishermen who row their boats standing at the edge of the vessel, moving the oars with their legs. It was the most impressive way I have ever seen a person manoeuvre a boat of any kind. It was like watching a ballet dancer on water.

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Did Myanmar have a problem? And if so, what? A prince who waited tables. Was that so bad? Couldn’t one call that progress? We even happened upon a winery on our bike ride. The wine tasted bad, but still. Nothing at that vineyard reminded us of human rights abuses. In fact, wouldn’t you agree that wineries are symbols of peace?

You could say it was a little bit like when I have guests over at my house and I only want them to stay in the living room. God forbid letting them upstairs to the bedrooms and the master bathroom! Not to mention the laundry room. Keep that door shut! If all the guests see is order and beauty, they may think I actually have my shit together.

You see, we weren’t allowed to leave the place of perfect tranquility. The plan had been to go to the rural areas where Partners support schools and medical clinics. Could it be so hard? We would ride our bicycles if need be. Awkward pauses in the conversation made us realise that it was actually that hard. Our Shan guides explained to us that the government would not only deny us access to the areas we wanted to visit, but the Shan themselves weren’t allowed to enter either. Why? They were dressed in pants and dress shirts and looked educated and wealthy. The government feared that people like them would be able to report too much back to the rest of the world about the dirty laundry rooms in the state. “The only way we can get to the areas you want to visit, is we we dress like villagers and act as if we too live there,”they told us.

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It was confirmed that just a couple of mountain tops away, more than ten thousand Shan were living in hiding from the Myanmar Army that just recently attacked and burned villages.

The areas we were allowed to visit were the areas where the poverty was just cute and could be mistaken for the beauty of a simple life.

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That was, incidentally, in the same area as the area where 60 new hotels are being built right now. “60 hotels? That is a lot of land and space,” commented we. “From whom did the hotel moguls get all that land?” “They bought it from the government who has forcibly relocated the villagers who originally lived there,” we were told. “They were forced to leave and they weren’t compensated?” “Yes, and no. They got a little bit of money for their land, but only a symbolic sum. In Myanmar the poor people have no land deeds, so they can’t prove that the land they and their forefathers lived on is actually theirs.” “So what do they end up doing when they can’t  work the land?” “They become day labourers in Thailand, and sometimes here in Myanmar. They have no rights.” I was reminded of the brothels with Burmese young girls. Wonder if any of them came from the villages that no longer existed. Could they have lived on the property of Novotel?

So, just like that, paradise became a lie, and the scenes surrounding us a theatre. It was still lovely and pleasant, but we knew that it was just make-believe.

Where a smart phone is still a novelty

Where a smart phone is still a novelty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met a prince

Tonight we met a man whose grandfather was once a foreign minister and his great grandfather was a prince. He himself runs a small restaurant in a small town in northern Myanmar. He is from the Shan people group. We are going to visit his home and hear more of his story later this week.

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We also ate fish salad, tea leaf salad, eggplant salad and cucumber sesame seed salad. It went great with Myanmar beer and some Burmese dance music.

In the days to come I will try to write regular updates. It is weird and nice that we now can buy SIM cards in Myanmar and there is 3G almost everywhere. That was not the case recently.

Stay tuned.

Creating a new gospel and justifying killing

This mother, she is a Muslim. She loves her baby too.

This mother, she is a Muslim. She loves her baby too.

Over the years I have made some Muslim friends.

Some of them like spicy food. Some don’t. Some of them listen to rap, others to classical music. Some of them are good at the times tables. Some of them suck. Some of them are skinny, others are a bit meatier. Some of them cover their heads, others don’t. Some are well educated; some don’t know how to read. Some sing in a choir, others play soccer.

The Muslim friends I have are as different as wild flowers in a field during summer.

Of course they have some things in common as well: They feel hunger. They get cold. They can feel lonely. They are afraid. Many laugh when they get tickled. They want to live in peace. They are happy when people say nice things to them.

There are exceptions to this rule. A few people in the world don’t appreciate it when they are complemented. But that is usually not because of their religion, but because of some issue in the past that they haven’t dealt with. There are some that don’t desire peace. But I haven’t met any of them. I have, however, met Muslims who have had to flee from the kind of people who desire to hurt and destroy.

Some Muslims decapitate their so-called enemies. Some practice other brutal forms of punishments for minor or major offenses. Some treat women despicably. They have no respect for human rights. The blow themselves and others up. These people are not my friends. I don’t know anybody who would want to be the friends of people who commit such monstrous acts.

Over the years, so-called Christians have also committed atrocities too terrible for words. I don’t consider these people followers of Christ, and their actions are as deplorable as crimes committed by other criminals.

Some times I have talked to my Muslim friends about my faith. And they have shared about theirs. Mostly I have found it interesting and stimulating. They have never rejected me because of my faith. I have never rejected them because of theirs.

Do they look like terrorists to you? Or do they look like the kind of people Jesus asked us to love?

Do they look like terrorists to you? Or do they look like the kind of people Jesus asked us to love?

 

I am a Christian and I have no intentions of changing my religion. I believe in Jesus and I believe in His teachings. I have found that what Jesus taught was the most radical, most life-changing, most peace-making teachings there ever was. Jesus will forever be my example and my hero. He did for example say:

Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God. (Mt.5:9)

I have quoted Mark Twain many times, and I gladly do it again. He said: It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me. It is the parts that I do understand.

Many Christians should be concerned these days. I see a lot of them creating a new gospel. A gospel where it is allowed to pick and choose who we decide to love. A gospel where it is OK to be racist. A gospel where killing is allowed. A gospel where hate is preached loudly and clearly.

I am not sure if these people, calling themselves followers of Jesus, have spent much time reading what he actually taught. How is it possible to love your neighbor like yourself and still endorse people who call for the killing and destruction of families who follow a different faith than ours? How is it that vomiting hate is an OK thing to do when it is aimed at people who follow a different faith, come from different cultures and speak a different language? When, exactly, did Jesus teach that this was all right?

In my Bible, it is recorded that Jesus said this: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

He too was created in God's image.

He too was created in God’s image.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t say: I was a hungry Christian, and you gave me something to eat. He didn’t say: I was a Christian, not Muslim, stranger and you invited me in. No, it appears that in Jesus’ eyes, people have equal value, no matter where they are from, no matter what they believe, no matter what skin color or first name they have. It is high time we start to follow his example.

People are fleeing because I want too many shoes

Rohingya IDPs

Rohingya IDPs

My friend said this: The refugee crisis we have in the world at the moment is because we have too much stuff. For some seconds I thought he was not entirely in touch with the state of affairs we are in right now—here on planet Earth.

It seems to me we have a refugee crisis because rotten leaders are leading rottenly, and people fleeing just have rotten luck all the way. My cluttered attic has less to do with the current plight. Is my over-stuffed shoe-shelf the reason millions are fleeing warn-torn countries?

We live in an unjust world, my friend continued, and I thought he was getting closer to the core issue. But still I wasn’t sure about the issue of my stuff. My closet is bulging. This causes stress whenever I buy a new dress or shirt because I am out of hangers. But I never considered that it would cause families to pack a few belongings and head for an unknown future in an unknown land.

The uncomfortable truth is that my friend is right. I knew it all along, but didn’t want to admit it. Realizing one is part of the problem is never a good feeling. Realizing that solving the problem will require giving up some of what I think is rightfully mine stings. Fact: I have been teaching teenagers the exact same thing over the past week. I just didn’t want my theory to affect my own comfortable lifestyle.

Why do people get trafficked? I would ask the teens. Why do wars start? Why do people flee their homes, leaving all they know and love behind? The answer varied every time I asked. But sooner or later a bright youngster would raise his or her hand and ask: Is it because of poverty? Bingo! said I. Then somebody else would add: And oppression? Score! I replied.

When parents can’t feed their children, when governments don’t build schools in villages, when adults have no jobs to go to, when vaccines cost more than a family can pay, when doctor fees are higher than a monthly income, when privileges are not yours because of your race, skin color or religion, people feel desperate. When, in addition to an already impossible situation, soldiers come and attack, people  seem to do one of three things:

1. They continue to be desperate and hope the situation will change, trying their best to improve it. 2. They join a group that will use whatever means possible to bring what they perceive justice to be. This may not be justice the way we think of it. This may be “justice” in the form of revenge. 3. They flee.

Then there is the other question that is harder to answer: Why are people poor and oppressed? We could answer that they are poor because they come from poor countries. But that is not necessarily true. In Myanmar people are ranked among the world’s poorest. Yet, the country is bursting with natural resources. The reasons nations are poor are as many as beads on a pearl necklace. For many it started all those years ago when the countries were colonized and plundered. Kind of like getting polio as a child and never recovering. Not that I am an expert on the theme, but it seems to me that every country that once was a colony is still trying to learn how to walk. Think Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar and others. That the leaders who have led since have been as capable as sea slugs have made already big problems bigger.

One would think that western nations who once stole resources and distorted cultures would want to make things better now that we are wealthy and fine, and they are still stuck in the mud. What poor nations are given by the West, however, are unfair trade deals, aid dependency and climate change.

So I am getting myself into a tangle here, and while I am struggling to put my thoughts together, I see myself getting labels such as communist and worse. I am not. I am just trying to understand why the world it so unfair, and I am seeing that the answer is not black and white. There is no one correct answer to the question: Why do people flee their homes and their countries? There is no simple solution. All I know is this: It is so heart-wrenchingly unfair.

One can have many opinions on economics and the solution to poverty. I am not an economist, just an ordinary woman who knows about myself that I could do so much more. One of the things I could do is to stop spending my money on stuff that I don’t really need, just want. So in that respect my friend was absolutely right. If all of us just spent a little less on ourselves, and a little more on them, we would already be a on the way to solving the refugee crisis. If we also could convince our leaders that cheap gas, diamonds, teak furniture, new smart phones every two years and designer purses don’t matter that much to us, then they too may start changing their politics.

Jesus was ahead of us in his thinking, and I wish we would all be better at following his example and commands:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can lives be saved on Facebook?

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to say something. It has been brewing for months. No, let’s say years. And now it is at the boiling point. Or, should we say it is boiling over. I am of course talking about the crazy, insane, terrible, heart wrenching, atrocious, to-cry-over refugee situation that is unfolding in front of our eyes in Europe.

The last couple of weeks the images of desperate people fleeing the horrors of war have haunted me. The photo of the weeping dad holding his children.

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Photo by Daniel Etter

The photo of families creeping under the barbed-wire fences built to keep them out. Children crying. The photo of the dad with a sleeping child on his shoulders, selling pens to provide for his family.

syrian dad

Unknown photographer

And today, the photos of little Aylan dead on a beach in Turkey.

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Photo by STRINGER/TURKEY / REUTERS

Later watching an interview with his dad, full of grief and guilt. He was not able to save his little family from drowning. Now his two sons and his wife are all gone. “All I want to do is to sit by their graves,” he said, lips quivering.

I have watched the news and read the papers, I have followed the trail of refugees online and I have marveled at our politicians and leaders who seem to be moving in molasses when decisions have to be made. Worse still are the politicians who consistently claim that our countries cannot and should not, under any circumstance, allow any of these desperate people to cross our borders. I watch, listen and wonder how they got in a position of power. Who were the people who elected them? Not my friends, I hope.

Little by little it is dawning on me: Why am I sitting here, watching the biggest refugee crisis the world has seen since WWII unfold in front of my eyes? Why am I waiting for our politicians to make up their minds about the value of human lives? Why do I think that I am personally exempt from getting involved? These people are me, they are my children, my husband, my friends and neighbors. Why should I not personally help them?

While discouraged about the lack of concern of the world leaders, and appalled by callous attitudes by some, I am also starting to see a movement across the world. I read today about a couple who sold their car and their vacation tickets to get money to help. I heard of a man seeing the photo of the dad selling pens for a living finding out who the man in the photo was, then raising thousands of dollars for him and his family. (http://www.techinsider.io/photo-of-a-syrian-man-trying-to-sell-pens-2015-9) I hear of families giving away their clothes and other belongings, of others offering a place to stay. I hear of children doing bake sales, and of grandmothers raising funds.

There may be some big mouths with loud voices saying that we are over-burdened, and in no place to help desperate people. There may be people in power who are more concerned by the next election than by people coming to their shores. But am starting to see that there is also a new move, a wave of people who are willing to do more than talk. They are taking the issue in their own hands and they are doing the only right thing to do: Getting involved.

They are doing more than clicking Like on Facebook posts. They are doing something that involve sacrifice and work. They are refusing to let history to be made. They are making history. They are not the bystanders. They are the movers. May the number of people like these multiply many times!

As I am writing this I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

Where is the easiest place to spot a fake Christian?

Today’s riddle: When can you see if a person is a real Christian or not?

My answer to my own, pretty lame riddle is this: When they are waiting in line to get food.

And why do I think so?

It’s because I have seen it with my own eyes.

See these girl/ladies? They handled the people with much more grace and friendliness than me. They were my heroes.

See these girl/ladies? They handled the people with much more grace and friendliness than me. They were my heroes.

Last week Partners was honored to get to serve two meals a day to the participants at a large Christian festival in the south of Norway. To the festival came well-known Christian leaders and preachers. Many of them carried labels stating their importance on their shirts. Many came to the festival to minister as either intercessors or as counselors. This I also noticed on their badges. Then there were the normal Christians who were there just to get some good spiritual fellowship and teaching. Not to mention worship and prayer. All of this is well. In the sanctuaries where the meetings were held people lifted their hands in worship. Words of the Lord were shared. Insightful teachings were delivered. Prayers were prayed.

Some people (not these) were real AHs. But our team was gracious and kind. Except me sometimes.

Some people (not these) were real AHs. But our team was gracious and kind. Except me sometimes.

But then there was time to get in the food line. The line was long, and the amount of food per person was calculated with pretty good accuracy. It was going to be enough for everyone if everyone ate just their share.

Something happens to Christians when they are hungry, and, even worse, when they think there may not be enough food for them. It appears all their Christian virtues were left in the sanctuary. Because while waiting in line, I saw more people pushing, cutting in line, taking more food for themselves than they were allowed, and using bad language to the servers if they didn’t get what they thought they were entitled to. They refused to move if they didn’t get more than we had given them. They rarely said thank you.

See me there? Compare my look to the look of Anne's. I look like I wanted to put poison in people's food. (I didn't want to do that, of course. I just looked that way.)

See me there? Compare my look to the look of Anne’s. I look like I wanted to put poison in people’s food. (I didn’t want to do that, of course. I just looked that way.)

You know the worst offenders? The big-shots. The ones who believed they had “the anointing.” The ones believing about themselves that since they were so spiritual, they deserved to cut ahead of others in line, and get seconds before the rest got firsts. I had a few intercessors forget about their calling too, and there were counselors in the lines that I would not recommend you get counseling from. If you know what I mean.

What was her problem? Anne was always smiling and happy. It could be why the young men asked for her phone number, not mine.

What was her problem? Anne was always smiling and happy. It could be why the young men asked for her phone number, not mine.

Then there were the ones who waited until everybody had eaten. By then, the best stuff was often gone. Left was pasta without sauce, or hamburgers with no hamburgers, just the buns and tomatoes. Some of them made loud complaints. Understandably. But there were also the precious few who smiled and thanked us for the dry pasta and said that this was all they needed.

I thought a lot about this during the week. The people waiting in the lines every day were mostly well-fed. Many of them too well-fed, I would have to say. I doubt that a single one of them had ever not had enough food to eat. None of them had ever really starved. So why were they so stressed, so selfish, so inconsiderate, and so greedy?

It dawned on me that what I saw in the food lines at the conference was a microcosm of our world. And now I talk about the Christian world. (I could talk about the world as a whole too, but this time I want to point fingers at Christians.)

How can we, in all sincerity, worship God and quote His word, and be all good Christians when in church, when among our own peers, when in places where it is easy to fake it, but then forget all about the teachings of Jesus when we are hungry? Why do we forget about what Jesus said about the first being the last (or was in vice versa?)

You know where I am going, don’t you? The thing about that there was enough food for everybody, if everybody just took their share. That is true. The problem is that you, I and millions of us, who call ourselves followers of Jesus even, don’t just take seconds before all have gotten to eat. We take thirds, fourths, fifths and sixth…we take a hundred portions before we allow somebody else to get a few dried macaronis.

I am trying to lose weight, for heaven’s sake! Today I ate too much—again. Portions too big, and too many.  I am saying to my family that we have got to get rid of some of all the clutter. We have stuff falling out the windows. Before the world’s starving children get to eat until they are full every day, I want a chance to have a  raw food, low carb, high protein, gluten free, grain free, Paleo, lactose free, vegan, vegetarian diet, with super foods such as quinoa, chia, goji, hemp, wheat grass, coconut oil and wild salmon. These are foods and diets that will make me stronger, prettier, live longer, have less wrinkles, run faster, do more push-ups and make my hair shiny. These are all such good things for me that I can’t afford not getting it, and, sorry to all the ones further back in the line. I hope there will be some Wonder bread and grape jelly left for you when it is your turn. I am sorry that you happened to be be born in the part of the world where you were born, and with the parents that you got, and the climate and the government you were given. I am really sorry, but not so sorry that I am willing to trade places with you. I need my green tea. 

I was so angry with some of the people in the food line that I at times just threw the food on their plate as a way to show my disgust with their selfishness. But when I got back in the evening, I was met with something scary: My own reflection in the mirror, and a message that I believe was from God himself: Dont judge others unless you want to be judged yourself. 

How far does your love reach?

It struck me that she was just like me

It hit me that she was just like me

It was the mother who kissed her baby girl I remember the most from my last trip to Sittwe, Myanmar, a few weeks ago. She held her baby up to her face and kissed her while she breathed deeply and smelled the lovely smell only one’s baby has. It hit me as I watched her that she was just like me. I always did the same when my kids were babies.

The woman I watched and observed was from the Rohingya people group. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted people. The result of that persecution was right before my eyes: Hungry and sick people, primitive and crowded shacks without a scrap of privacy, children who have no access to an education, 140,000 people, displaced to an enclosed camp they are not allowed to leave. In their own country.

The Muslim people group, who counts around one million people, had their citizenship removed in 1982. “These people don’t belong in Myanmar,” says the government even today. “They don’t look like us, and they don’t have the same religion as us.” In spite of evidence proving the opposite, the public opinion in Myanmar is that the Rohingya is not an ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The result of this demeaning treatment and the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in can now be seen on the Andaman ocean. Since this year begun an estimated  25,000 Rohingya have bought a ticket on a boat that is the promise to freedom. The problem is that no freedom, just more suffering, is in store for them.

Neither Thailand, nor Malaysia or Indonesia will allow the boats full of Rohingya refugees to come to land. Instead they use their own navy ships and pull them back out to sea. A death sentence.

My husband, Steve, together with a team from Partners and Fortify Rights, is out looking for these boats right now. They have water, food and medicines in their boat. They are also joined by lots of journalists from all the biggest news media in the world.

We can give them bottles of water. We can give them some bags of food. We can hand out fever-reducing medicines and pills to stop diarrhea. We can film and document. We can take pictures of crying mothers and begging men. We can show photos that the world can choose to see, or not to see. But we cannot save them! The only thing we have to offer is some relief from their pain, and we can buy them some time before they die on sea anyway. Unless a miracle happen.

The miracle would be if these people were allowed to return to their own villages and live the life they long for the most: A life without persecution and closed doors.

Recently I read a quote by a man named Jarle Haugland that has stuck with me ever since: How far do we have to be removed from our close relationships before other things become more important than other people’s lives?

Are these people’s lives as important as our own lives, or are they just too far away? Do the millions of refugees from Syria or Myanmar have the same value as our closest family? If the answer is YES, then why don’t we care more? If the answer is YES, then why do our elected leaders continue to trade with nations, like Myanmar, who treat people this way? If the answer is yes, then what do we answer a child who asks: Why don’t anybody want us? If we call ourselves Christians, how can we justify not loving our neighbor as ourselves.

There is a lot about this crisis on lots of news media. Start by checking out our Webpage. Then like our Facebook page. Thereafter you can read these articles.Do read Fortify’s latest publication as well.

Thomas the Tank Engine has also become a show off

Really sucks to be a Polar Bear these days

Really sucks to be a Polar Bear these days (Photo credit: http://www.criticalshadows.com)

Since the world is in such a state as it currently is, the best option for us would be to not get out of bed. Basically, no matter how we look at it, we are screwed. Sorry to break it to you, but anybody who says anything else is lying.

There may be a terrorist in every neighborhood. Countries are disappearing under water. The oceans are polluted with dioxins and other crap, making our seafood carcinogenic. The garbage incinerators send toxins into the air that falls down into the grass that the cows eat, making meat some of the worst things we can eat, along with cabbage, I presume. Our youngsters don’t know how to spell, much less write cursive. Species are disappearing. The rainforests are diminishing at rapid speed, while ISIS continues to grow. Thousands are dying at sea, and if they don’t die, they are likely to end up as slaves, fishing shrimps, or sewing our cheap t-shirts. And now I read that Thomas the Tank Engine has become a bad role model for children, who, according to The Guardian, “frequently shrink his responsibilities in order to compete against the others to show off.”

Even Thomas the Tank Engine is taking on the values of the world. He has become selfish.

Even Thomas the Tank Engine is taking on the values of the world. He has become selfish. (Photo credit: http://www.theguardian.com)

What are the odds of making it, whether you are rich or poor?

There are times when I think of this, and feel doomed. But mostly, I just go on with my days. Answering emails. Paying bills. Drinking coffee. Downloading an app that will help me stay in shape. Honestly, I try to avoid reading too much on global warming, about the homeless people in Nepal or about the rise of cancer world-wide. It just makes me depressed. And why bother?

I guess I should bother for the same reason you should bother, and we all should bother: Because it matters. Small people can move big mountains. We just need to start by moving the first stones, like a wise person once said.

So this is what I have decided. To keep fighting and moving forward. Because quitters don’t win. And winners don’t quit.

It matters what I do. Because THEY matter.

It matters what I do. Because THEY matter. (I took this photo of Rohingya munchkins less than a month ago. They need people like you and me to not give up.)

I can, for example, buy fewer new clothes. I could stop shopping less. Period. I could wash the plastic baggies and re-use them. I could boycott all seafood from Thailand and other places that use slaves to fish. I could commit to living on less. I could stop eating so much meat and more weeds that grow in the forest and on the fields around my house. Or just normal vegetables for that matter. Broccoli is the cure for all, with spinach a close second. Not to mention oats. I could share my wealth with organizations, such as Partners, who work their butts off to save lives, or to Fortify Rights who are reporting on atrocities the world seem not to care about. I could invite lonely people home for dinner. I could decide to not ever vote for politicians who will not help refugees in need. If I all did this, together with you and millions of others, the ship may start changing course. If we don’t, however, but instead stay in bed and let men dressed in black take over the planet, then we shouldn’t be surprised when the world goes from bad to worse.

I saw this quote that I thought was fitting for some of us who think that our calling only takes us as far as from bed to our computer screen: Dignity: The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes. Shannon Alder

 

 

 

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