Recent events in the news have me kind of reeling with the weight of multiple and massive tragedies. Mudslides in Oso hit close to home, and more recently, the capture of around 300 young women in Northern Nigeria by an extremist Muslim group, Boko Haram, have shocked the minds and broken the hearts of many. This latter tragedy has generated a social media campaign so widespread that #BringBackOurGirls has become a household hashtag. Now, one may argue how effective such campaigns might be – ie – whether or not the First Lady and British Prime Minister holding up signs with such a hashtag really has any impact on the situation. One might also debate how much involvement the United States should have in the efforts to free these women and bring their captors to justice (this is, by the way, hardly an isolated incident for the Boko Haram). Even that debate may be irrelevent seeing how Nigerian leadership has been rather lukewarm and inconsistent about accepting help from the U.S. and other foreign nations in the past. But honestly, I have neither the political wisdom or cultural insight to offer educated answers. You’ll have to look at other blogs or news media for those insights.
What does interest me, however, is the implication of the OUR in #BringBackOurGirls. And I say that because I think it is significant that it doesn’t say THEGirls, or THEIRGirls, or something like that. As I listen to this story, I am horrified and sickened. But as I think about it being MY girls who are kidnapped; members of my family being kidnapped and subjected to God knows what, well, that changes everything. For me to think, even for a moment, that MY Zoe, my flesh and blood daughter, would be involved in such a crime is honestly too much for my mind to handle. The enormity of rage and fear I feel are blocked before I can even visualize such a thing for more than an instant. It is nearly the same if I think of any one of the young women in our high school youth, or any of my six teenage nieces. And yet, is their a difference between any of them and these Nigerian girls? In light of our following the God revealed in Christ, is there really any difference? When I saw the OURGirls, that thought immediately came to my mind. Again, I might hear this story and be horrified and sickened. But do I secretly think of them as THEIRGirls, or simply THEGirls, ones I can easily dismiss as the “other” and not me; ones who are passed off as “not my responsibility”. When I do that, I dismiss them; make them less than ME and MINE. I think I am even saying that I am okay with this going on in the world; that I accept this as the norm. But when they are MYGirls – OURGirls – our mindset changes, and I think that makes all the difference in the world. It may still be that there is little I can do in such a situation to find the Boko Haram and bring them to justice, returning these girls to their wailing mothers and searching fathers. But it does affect how I identify with those I might be tempted to dismiss, perhaps noticing them or their plight for a few seconds or a few weeks, but never fully embracing as MINE and OURS. And that revelation may move me to action that affects tragedy around the world. Or it may lead me to open my eyes to the needs that exist among people in Kitsap County, especially when I have the mindset that I am theirs and they are MINE.
Do you have further insights into this story? What does it mean/look like for you to stand with someone rather than dismissing them? Check out Romans 12:2, or Luke 15’s discussion between father and oldest son for more.