Are we so desensitized to evil that we can turn our backs on the slaughter of innocents? Aisling Twomey urges us to bust out of our safe cocoons and take some serious action.
It’s not who we are, but what we do that defines us. Throughout history, we’ve rejected and forgotten those we won’t sympathise with, can’t empathise with and don’t understand. Since Biblical times, when society persecuted Jesus Christ, to the present day, when we reject people of different skin colour or sexuality, our world has been a truly mad world.
Why do we reject people who are crying out for help? Do we reject them because we don’t understand? Or are we ignorant because we reject them?
Rwanda. 1994. A Hutu uprising deems it necessary to eradicate the Tutsi tribe. In an “act of genocide”, tens of thousands of men, women and children suffer painful, lonely deaths. Limbs are torn off and children are executed in front of their pleading parents. We in the West, take no responsibility. We ensure our own people are removed safely and then take no further interest. In 1994, we rejected what was happening because we didn’t want to reason with it.
Then came Sierra Leone, 1999. Civil war raged as diamonds were extracted from the field by slaves. As the RUF in Sierra Leone forced children as young as five to kill their own families, and as they cut the arms from civilians so they could no longer vote, work or fight, we sighed and tutted, and admired the wonderful jewellery sparkling around us. It is estimated that up to 15% of the world’s diamonds are ‘conflict stones’. But a conflict sounds like a civilised, mild disagreement. It cannot apply to the 50,00 dead in Sierra Leone. Eight years ago, we denied the people of Sierra Leone their dignity and their integrity. And along the way, we lost some of our own.
Let’s take a look at America April 20th, 1999. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold march into Columbine High School, armed to the teeth and smiling. The two students kill fifteen people, themselves included. They’d apologised to their families in a video filmed before their massacre. Must it really take those fifteen victims, the thirty four in Virginia Tech last spring, the nine in Finland just a few months ago, before we hear those cries for help? When will we realise that we cannot reject and avoid the vulnerable, insecure and dispossessed? We mustn’t put a mask of civility on the injustice of our world. Bu allowing it, we allow for it to become normality, and two teenagers walking into school with shotguns is nor normality.
Today, things aren’t any better. There are 32 wars raging in this world. Kenya is falling apart, and deep in the depths of Darfur, ‘Rwanda’ is happening all over again. We should thank God that our lives don’t mirror the nightmarish truths written here. We all know the sounds of rejection: cruel jibes in the playground, the awful loneliness of being without friends, the sound of silence. And we are aware of entire countries begging us not to forget them. Yet we remain indifferent.
We need to listen, as well as hear, in order to understand the depths of our rejections. Because, in this mad world, it’s not who we are, but what we do that defines us.