Friday, March 12, 2010

Of What Jos Photos Bespeak

Day 24 of 46 c Lenten Season 2010

Show and Tell

Normally, Friday’s Show & Tell presents a light-hearted respite from the week's more heady news and stern topics. Even when I talked about my mother's family's church in coastal Maine, the accompanying photo had a charming poignancy to it.

Today, however, I’m compelled to provide not one picture, but a link to a web page with images capturing the atrocities that occurred in Jos, Nigeria, last weekend.

Be forewarned: these images depict raw scenes of death and mutilation which are incredibly disturbing. They have been posted by the Anglican Diocese of Jos for the world to see. Because of their shocking nature, I’m not posting any of them here. I'm not even trying to be exploitative by providing the link. Sometimes people simply have to see it to believe it.

A Crisis in Central Nigeria

You will recall from my post this past Monday that I have friends in Jos who've been within sight and earshot of central Nigeria's recent conflicts. These friends sent me some photos yesterday of a peaceful march by thousands of Jos women demonstrating against the violence. Dressed in simple clothes or elaborately woven dresses, these women waved freshly-plucked plant fronds and held signs asking “Why? Why? Why?” and “Stop the Murder.” For security reasons, my friends asked me not to post the photos, their reticence further evidence of the thick tensions which envelop their community.

My editor at Crosswalk.com wanted to interview my friends regarding the Jos violence, but they demurred, hesitant for how their comments as white Christian Americans might be interpreted by the Nigerian Muslim rioters who also have access to the Internet.

Indeed, although their world is constrained by violence, my friends in Africa live lives that exemplify how people of faith should live wherever we are: in this world, but not of it. We should constantly be mindful of what other people see in us, and how our words and actions can affect others. And although we may not understand what is happening around us, we can be confident that our sovereign God does.

Don't Try to Understand, Just Consider the Plight

The violence in and around Jos has been difficult to qualify and quantify. Indeed, even among perpetrators on both sides of the bloodshed and destruction, reporters have obtained conflicting reasons for the anger and objectives which motivate them. Some riot, pillage and murder for religious reasons, some for control over fertile land, some for the respectability of their social group, and some for political power. Although you’ll note the Anglican Diocese website simplifies the violence along Christian/Muslim lines, the situation is unfortunately more complex than that.

But as I said on Monday, I’m not sure that we Americans are obligated to try and understand what is happening in Jos – at least, not right now. I’m not even sure my friends – who have lived there for almost two decades – could describe the intricacies of the conflicts there.

Just because we can’t digest it doesn’t mean we should ignore it, though, does it? A measure of dignity for the lives lost this past weekend may be granted by our acknowledgement of the heinousness of hatred, as well as our affirmation of the value of life. Even as it is destroyed half a world away.

2 comments:

  1. I regret looking at the pictures. Many of those precious children looked similar in age to my own children.
    But beyond my mother's heart, I cannot imagine WHY God sent His Son to save mankind - who does such horrid, wretched things to one other. How Great the Father's Love for Us indeed! Can I live my life in gratitude of His saving grace?

    Tim, what can we do? I feel helpless.

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  2. You know I'm hardly a sage, Carolyn, but I think the only thing we can do at this point is thank God for the opportunity He's given us to treasure our relative freedom from such violence, reaffirm our commitment to the sanctity of all human life, and pray for those in harm's way. I debated myself about posting that link to those photos. I decided that if they helped to tell the story of those people, and helped us contemplate the fullness of God's holy sovereignty, then they may serve a purpose.

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