Like everyone else in the international relief|development world, I’ve been shocked and saddened by the murders of the medical team in Afghanistan. It brings it a bit closer to home when a couple of our good friends here in Phnom Penh were good friends with some of the slain.
I’ll be honest, my first thought as I’ve been processing this information was, “man I’m glad I work in Phnom Penh and not Afghanistan and I don’t think I’ll ever plan to go there.” In Phnom Penh, the closest brushes with death we’ll ever experience would most certainly come from a traffic misshap or a freak accident – not because of religious fanaticism. And while both are equally unpredictable – I would take an accident over fanaticism as they don’t select their victims on the basis of ethnic group, race, gender or religion.
But in reading a eulogy a friend in Cambodia wrote and as I read “Darkness Cannot Put Out Darkness: Friends Murdered in Afghanistan by Heather Wilson for God’s Politics blog, I have been moved. In a peace building direction. Inspired by the lives of these 21st century heroes who have have served and sacrificed – in the heart of the conflict – to bring peace.
One bit in Heather’s post stuck out to me in particular:
Many think we are foolish to live and work in Afghanistan, but we are not blithely unaware. We knowingly consider this danger, having to choose whether proactively working for the peace and restoration of a country and its people is worth the risk. And we decide that it is. Because as people of faith, we believe that love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and service are meant to interrupt the hate. We believe that one in six women should not die in childbirth, that kids should have schools with trained teachers, that families should have food, and that basic health care should be available. And so we go — we give, and love, and risk.
I have to think about that in Phnom Penh too. Because this country isn’t all restaurants and good curry and friendly Cambodians and massages and adventures to remote temples. There is suffering here too. And while I work for an NGO where I’m confronted all the time with stories of trafficking, exploitation and horror, my own life is fairly removed from it. But…I know better. I know that wherever humans are, there will be suffering. In the words of Heather one more time…
…even though I don’t live in Afghanistan today, I am no less intended to live this life of sacrificing for peace. My city and my neighborhood need the hatred, fear, and despair to end as well. In the wake of this loss, I have the choice to either grow in compassion and empathy, or to be hardened by the violence — for peace does not come without sacrifice.
So I pray. I fall to my knees and pray that I will have the courage to go into the hardest places. That I won’t get hardened by corruption, by apathy, by ignorance. That I will grow in compassion and empathy. And choose to sacrifice for peace.