As I’msitting in my little home office, it can be a challenge to understand that the world is much bigger than where I live in Kennesaw, Georgia. Or even the country that I’m proud to call home America, the same country that my father Moses Mwaura migrated to. Yet God calls for us to not only recognize that we’re part of a world representing over seven billion people, but at the same time to love the world. In fact, I would even venture to say that Isaiah 37:16 makes it clear that God made and sees the entire world, which is unlike me. God doesn’t see just one part of the world which is why as Christ Followers we should be praying for our world daily.
Recently on a rare Thursday Evening when many people were done working for the day, I had the privilege of spending a few minutes with United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield. During my amazing time with her I learned so much about our world and the reasons that we should see ourselves not only as citizens of America but worldwide citizens. We have been placed here by a God who made and oversees the world. He desires for us to do our part, which in part is praying for the world around us.
During my time with Ambassador Greenfield, she stressed that although she loves the world that the one part of the world that she is concerned about is Haiti. As a man who has lived in Florida, I understand her sentiments. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and the rate of famine that is plaguing that part of the world is alarming. Although the Haitian people are a resourceful and steadfast people they have been through a lot. “Every two to three years, a national disaster seems to hit Haiti which makes it hard for them to bounce back,” according to Ambassador Greenfield. I can still remember that two years ago their President was assassinated while he slept, and it sent the country into turmoil. As citizens of the world, if we’re to make a difference we should listen to the prompting of the spirit. We should find our part of the world that God may want us to get involved with, pray for it, and even go if we can. If we are to do our part in loving the world we must get out of our personal boxes and get involved.
“We prevented famine in Africa by providing $500 million dollars to confront famine.” In hearing Ambassador Greenfield say this, it brought tears to my eyes. I think at times in our world we can get consumed in thinking that our tax dollars aren’t at work. But they are in cases like these. Luke 4:23 is clear that to much is given much is required. Although we have our problems in America, we have been given a lot. Which is why we should be missional as believers. The Great Commission is clear that we have been called to go into all the world which has never been easier than it is today with modern technology. In the world that we live in today, with just a click of a button, we can have conversations with people that our ancestors would have never dreamed of having. Just by having a conversation with someone in another part of the world we could be making the connection of a lifetime and maybe even bringing peace. I believe that great connections always bring peace. “The United Nations has prevented World Wars and is the only institution that we have worldwide.” This may explain why Ambassador Greenfield loves her job and seemed to be upbeat even after most of us have stopped working for the day. “I’m on a mission”, which for ambassador Greenfield began growing up in a small southern town in Louisiana. During our conversation she was on her way to the airport heading home from a trip to New Orleans. “I loved being back in my home state and the hospitality that they show me…I hope I’m making them proud.”
As citizens of the world my prayer is that when people see us as American Citizens and followers of Jesus, that we are making them proud. We have been given a mandate by God to not only go into all the world, but also tackle issues that the world may be ignoring like climate change. The Ambassador is clear that climate change issues are not only affecting the us globally but also right here in America. To truly see the needs that are around us, we must people that love and recognize the needs around us. The United Nations is in New York City and is known as “The People’s House.” Ambassador Greenfield says, “It’s the peoples house, so anybody can come”. I will be taking her up on that offer because I believe that we are not only called to love our world, but we are also called to participate and engage with the world as world citizens. God doesn’t just love America, but He loves the entire world and there is so much work to be done. It is going to take all of us to pull off the task that He has called for us to do: bringing heaven to earth so that all may experience the kingdom of God.
REMEMBERING THE TRAGEDY: A Rwandan genocide survivor visits the Gisozi memorial in Kigali, Rwanda, where he views pictures of some of the 800,000 people killed in his nation's 1994 massacre. (Photo: Radu Sigheti/Newscom)
When I studied abroad in Rwanda in July, friends and family expressed concern for my safety. To them, Rwanda conjured images of genocide that tore through this small African country in 1994.
Now, after learning about what happened during the genocide, their concern seems terribly ironic. Because if anything like the genocide were to happen again, my American passport would have gotten me a seat on the next plane home. I never would have been in any danger.
But I can’t say the same for the people I met in Rwanda: fellow students I took classes with, pastors I interviewed, street children I gave food to, and the leaders and scholars who lectured for our class. People who were like me, sharing my passion for ministry or my hope to make a difference, but without the American passport.
When the Rwandan genocide began in April 1994, Americans and other Westerners were immediately evacuated, while the most vulnerable people—the Tutsi being targeted, and the Hutu moderates who stood up for them—were abandoned.
The international forces that poured in to evacuate foreigners could have stopped the genocide right then if they’d teamed up with UN peacekeepers and other nearby troops. But they didn’t. And 100 days later, a million people were dead.
Seventeen years after the genocide, Rwanda is now one of the safest countries in Africa. But in other parts of the world still experiencing conflict, this scenario is not so far from the horrifying truth of what could happen when crisis hits: foreigners are saved, and Africans are not.In Rwanda, the killers were sharpening their machetes and waiting for the evacuation team to do their job, so they could close in on their victims without interference. The message to Rwandans was disturbingly clear: you were only getting on a UN rescue truck if you had that passport—or, in plainer words, if your skin was white.
“Mass slaughter was happening, and suddenly there in Kigali we had the forces we needed to contain it, and maybe even stop it,” UN General Romeo Dallaire told journalist Samantha Power in The Atlantic’s “Bystanders to Genocide.” “Yet they picked up their people and turned and walked away.”
ABANDONING RWANDA: The extremist Hutu militia killed 10 Belgian soldiers at this site to scare Belgium out of Rwanda. Belgium pulled its soldiers from the UN peacekeeping mission, severely reducing its force. The bullet holes are still visible at this former military camp, now a memorial in Kigali. (Photo by Tyler Hutcherson)
You can’t help but ask the difficult questions: Why were foreigners saved and Africans abandoned, when their lives are just as valuable? Why didn’t the rest of the world pull their troops together to save a million lives, rather than just rescuing the Westerners, calling the mission a success, and getting out?
I think of watching Beyond the Gates, a fictional movie about the Rwandan genocide, and listening to a white journalist compare her experiences seeing death in different countries. “When I was in Bosnia, I cried every day,” this character said. “I looked at the white faces of women dead in the gutter and thought, ‘That could be my mother.’ In Rwanda, I look at the bodies and I think, ‘It’s just dead Africans.’”
Looking back at what happened in Rwanda, I can’t help but wonder if a similar lack of empathy enabled the rest of the world to turn its back on Rwanda, reasoning that the people they left behind after the evacuation were “just dead Africans.” Has American culture become so numb to the suffering of Africans that it sees their continent as a lost cause? How can we help Americans see Africans as brothers and sisters in Christ, people who could be our family?
As I left the genocide memorials, I often felt empty, dead inside. I wasn’t sure I was capable of feeling even a fragment of the horror that happened there—let alone put it into words. Because there are some things that can’t be put into words, that are so mind-blowing that to even begin to describe them would be to trivialize the truth.
In such moments, it can be tempting to shut down emotionally, because although we may feel empathy, it seems that there’s not much we can do to put it to use. And so it’s all too easy to discard it, and move on.
I wonder what would happen if we instead clung to our empathy, aching and trusting that God can understand even when we have no words and don’t know what to do. As Romans 8:26 puts it, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Because if we hold on to our empathy and cry out to God when we feel helpless, maybe we won’t give up so easily. Maybe we’ll open our eyes and see that a million lives could be saved. And then maybe we’ll use our voice as a church to do something about it.
CONFLICTS IN AFRICA TODAY:
• South Sudan’s foreign minister is warning that Sudan and South Sudan are “on the brink of war” after border violence, and the UN said Tuesday the fighting has displaced about 417,000 people. “If that conflict explodes, it would easily become the largest conventional war on the face of the earth,” wrote George Clooney and John Prendergast in a TIME article about famine as a weapon in Sudan.
• In Somalia, 250,000 people are still facing famine. The Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab has worsened the crisis, recently ordering 16 humanitarian aid agencies to leave Somalia, including the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The New York Times has disturbing photographs of the crisis—and one glimpse of hope, a photograph of one child giving another child a drink.
What’s the duty of the American church now? Is your church taking action to help stop violence and famine in Africa?