October 31, 2005

"Why do their lives mean so little to us?"

Sometimes when you haven't posted for awhile, it can be kind of intimidating to start posting again. After such a long absence, I often find I want to post something really profound. Something of literary brilliance and true political significance.

But, of course, if I waited until I could do that, I'd never end up posting.

So, I'll just return to posting to SRS with something from my personal blog about the Congo. Did you know that since 1998 nearly four million people have died there as a result of war (sometimes called "Africa's world war") and the diseases and malnutrition that accompanied it? That 1000 people are still dying there everyday despite a very tenuous peace agreement reached in 2003?

A few years ago when I first read in the Independent that 3 million had died, I was absolutely gobsmacked. This is loss of life at near Holocaust proportions and nobody is talking about it. I remember when I sent the article to my godfather, he too was speechless. When we talked about it on the phone, we both sat quietly stunned until he finally asked, "why do their lives mean so little to us?"

That question has continued to haunt me through the three years since, particularly recently when I read Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, set in the Congo from 1960 through the late 1980s, as well as earlier this month when the Independent reported on a mass grave from the war that was recently unconvered.

The question has left me weepy since watching an old episode of ER set in the Congo late Saturday night. While I'm not normally a big fan of the show, this particular episode was an unflinching look at the brutality that has occurred there. Women raped. Aid workers shot. Human life so very expendable.

Is it any wonder when we don't even care enough to mention it on the nightly news?

In June, Andrew Stroehlein stated in an op/ed piece for the Christian Science Monitor that "I've lost count of how many journalists in the recent weeks have asked me, 'Why aren't the media covering the Congo?'"

News editors have long assumed "no one is interested in Africa," supposing their audience sees only hopeless African problems eternally defying solution and thus not worth attention.

But solutions do exist for Congo: The linchpin to resolving the conflict is the creation of a unified and effective national army and the disarmament of the remaining ragtag forces that are the source of so much suffering.

Both the Congolese Transitional Government and the Rwandan government are heavily dependent on outside aid, so if the international community would more closely condition its support on such concrete measures, it could bolster the transition process and decisively advance peace in the region. Sadly, such stories of potential solutions are no more reported in the Western media than stories of the country's current despair.

However, if you go to the website for Stroehlein's organization, International Crisis Group, you can scroll down to section nine where it tells you things that you can do, like simply tell a friend what's going on.

So, that's what I'm doing now. Telling all of you, my dear sisters and brothers, that real people are dying really horrible deaths in the Congo. And that their lives mean a great deal to Christ, even if we have been indifferent.