I take a slow, steady breath. Close my eyes, lean in to the stillness. Open them again to a soft coat of clouds covering a gentle blue sky. I sit on the front porch in my blue-painted chair with brightly colored cushion, potted plants of mums and bluebells at my feet along the walkway. Songs of sparrows surround the air, pale coolness of autumn touching my skin, turning maple leaves to coral and amber.
It is a quiet morning, and all is still on my sleepy street.
But the horrified cries of terror and grief of a people in pain rings in my ears.
Brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, struck down in front of family. Burned alive, beheaded, callous execution by cruel evil. Howls for pardon, knees sunk low in the grass to be set free.
I cannot get away from their suffering, even when the scene in which I sit now looks completely opposite of their reality.
For weeks, I had been hearing of the refugees flooding into Bangladesh seeking asylum from the horrors at home. The persecuted Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Buddhist-filled Myanmar, are often described as the “the world’s most persecuted minority” (Aljazeera.com). They’ve been targeted, tortured and slaughtered by government soldiers in Myanmar. But I only listened with half understanding.
Until I came across an article in The New York Times that ran on Wednesday, regaling the unimaginable atrocities up close. Now, it was personal. Now, there were names.
Rajuma, the woman who told her tale without tears, so traumatized her body would no longer recognize the pain in self-protection. Her baby, ripped from her arms and tossed in a fire.
The plea in my voice for Him who holds the world when no other prayer will do.
This is reality. Hard to hear as I watch the American flag hooked to my front porch pillar rustle smooth in the light breeze, its fabric soft casting smooth sound, such freedom in the stripes and stars. I pray I never take for granted. I pray I could make my way to this woman and simply sit with her hand in mine, human touch that tells she is not alone.
We who clutch our lattes close and gripe when the wait gets too long, do we realize the hurting hearts that cry for comfort? Those who have left all they’ve known and wander cramped camps where children grapple for a pair of jeans?
My heart can’t take the hurt, the atrocities without answers. But bleed it must, for we are not called to comfort, but compassion. I pause and let the wails of the Rohingya bowl me over. I weep, and I plead to God. And I take their lives as my own and own up to where I have fallen complacent. The weight of the world is burden no one can handle. It is reserved for God to handle. There are no words, only deep howls of injustice and raw longing for this world to be made right.
Though Rajuma and others like her arrive in Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes on their skin and perhaps a small bag of belongings, they do not go alone. I may be far across oceans, but I hold them in my heart and do what little I can to make their voices heard, share their stories. We need to remember that we are not meant to walk through this life without one another.
The songbirds whistle their melodies from the crabapple tree at the edge of my hard, its leaves turning gold at the edges. Another slow breath, sting of soul. God Almighty, this world is beautiful. Even in the broken, the strained, the dank pockets of pain, there is room enough for light to stream through. There is hope again at crossing borders to lend a hand to one that’s been waiting for this offering, been waiting to grab hold.
The world is wide enough for us all to lean in close.
Read The New York Times article on the Rohingya refugees here.
Please consider helping the Rohingya refugees, providing food, shelter, medicine, or just meeting immediate needs. #SaveTheRohingya
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