“They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.” Psalm 74:8
A group of my friends, including my roommate Sara, flew out of the Beirut airport on July 12, 2006 — the day before Israeli warplanes bombed southern Beirut, demolishing half of the same airport. Weeks later when they arrived back safe in Pasadena they had an interesting reflection on the U.S. News’ reporting of the conflict. Whenever newscasters spoke of Israeli casualties, the B-roll showed pictures of crying children and wounded men, when the Lebanese death-toll was mentioned the pictures in the background were of smoking buildings and streets littered in rubble.
This week there are also faces missing in the news. Faces like this one, eight-year-old Namrata, who was attacked by fanatics in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, India, when she was returning to her village from the jungle where she’d taken refuge from the rampaging mob. Her house was burned to the ground, making her and her family refugees — like more than 50,000 others forced to flee for their lives.
This is just the beginning of the litany of atrocities perpetrated in Orissa in the last two weeks that have continued relatively unnoticed by the global community — and unremonstrated. Churches have been razed, orphanages set ablaze, people raped and mutilated.
But worse than the faces missing in the news, worse by far, are those now missing in Orissa: the mothers and fathers who won’t come home, the children who weren’t as “lucky” as Namrata (the word lucky is profane to use in such a context), the nameless victims that make up the more than two-dozen-person disparity between the casualties recorded by the Catholic Church and those recognized by the local government.
Who will raise the cry? Who will sound the alarm? Who will speak against injustice if not the people of God, wedded to him “in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” (Hosea 2:19)
This Sunday, September 7th, has been declared a Day of Prayer and Fasting by the World Council of Churches, encouraging people “to join in this initiative by praying for the families of those who have lost their dear ones, for those who are displaced, for all others who suffer the consequences of this violence and for all those who are striving to restore trust and goodwill among people and communities.”
Please join me in praying, and please — tell everyone you know.