Pro Life?

Standing among friends and strangers at a rally in the town of my birth, I wore my heart on my sign. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say. How do you fit a journey of the heart into a tiny sign? After a night of little sleep and unsettling dreams, this is what came to me.

Pro Life? Then stand with those who fear for theirs.

Something fundamental is lost when a pro life stance is only pro birth. If I only care about preserving the life of a wee babe until it is pushed out from the safety and comfort of the womb, then I care nothing about that wee babe, only about making sure that someone else is keeping the letter of the law.

There is a pretty big difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life. Anti-abortion will do anything to make abortion illegal. It is a political stance that hopes to influence policies, without personally needing to put in any of the work needed to serve those wee babes or their mothers.

I carried this sign because I wanted people to reflect on the idea that being pro-life should change the way you do life. Living eight years in a country where abortion was illegal showed me that laws do very little to change things. Abortions happened frequently there and they were only more dangerous to the mother because of the ways in which they were done. It got me thinking a lot.

Can we say we are pro-life if we marginalize and demonize the woman who has had an abortion instead of seeking to restore her to community? Can we say we are pro-life if, when that babe is hungry and her mom can’t make it on minimum wages and applies for food stamps, we judge her and call her lazy or entitled?  What about when the babe grows up and can’t get health care because of a preexisting condition and he dies? Are we pro-life when another babe grows up and spends days running through the jungle from a genocide in her country and we close our borders because she might be a terrorist? When the babe of one skin tone grows up and ends up having his blood splattered on the sidewalk though he was unarmed and was not threatening anyone but the one who took his life walks away scot-free, whose life are we really for? What about the babe who grows up and embraces his culture and decides to kneel during the national anthem as a way to signal to the rest of us that there is a group of people who fear for their lives because of events that keep happening throughout our country?

Pro-life is for life on either side of the womb. It gets to know the moms contemplating abortion and does life with them helping to carry their load. It shares food with the hungry. It works tirelessly to ensure that lives of all races are treated with dignity and it speaks out against injustice. Pro-life does not discriminate. It listens to people of other races, socioeconomic levels, religions and beliefs. It loves. It serves. It is never only pro (rich white American) life. It is for all life.

I also wanted to signal to those who are living in fear for their lives that they are not alone. Their voices are heard. Their pain matters.  Their life has value. I’m adding my voice to the cry, putting my body on the sidewalk with them and for them.

Pro life. It’s not a political or religious stance.  It’s a way of living.

 

The Rohingyan Nightmare

 

Embed from Getty Images

Smoke rises thick and hovers over the jungle like a greedy wraith, never pausing, angrily swirling on and on as proof of the genocide of the Rohingya of Myanmar’s Rakhine Province. Although they have been hunted down and killed by their countrymen and their government since 1948, the genocide has intensified over the last 30 days as more than 400,000 refugees have poured into Bangladesh, the closest country that shares a land border. Many of them have been walking for four days through the jungle, hiding from soldiers with machetes, dodging bullets, running for their lives. Many are mothers with small children, who no doubt put off this journey as long as possible, hoping against hope that something would stop the madness in time to save them. Now, with village after village going up in smoke and machetes swinging in the hands of the very ones who are supposed to protect, staying is most certainly death. So they grab their wee ones and run.

When I read this post today and saw their faces, something inside of me broke a little more and the madness of the world folded in on me. Breathing in the scent of the spices roasting for tonight’s curried lentils and rice, I was deeply aware of the solid floor beneath my feet and the running water in the sink. As rain poured down outside, I absorbed the dryness and safety of my home. Rice bubbling, vegetables frying, more than enough everywhere I look. But inside my soul weeps for those on the run. For the pregnant mother running through the jungle. For the baby born on the outhouse floor. For the terrified little one separated from her family. For hungry bellies fighting for the tiniest scraps of food. For families who have lost everything – their home, their country, their place of belonging.  I store the leftovers from our meal in the fridge and am overwhelmed by the much that I have. Scrubbing curry rings off emptied plates is a holy act as I am humbled to have so much, yet my soul roars within me, praying for this madness to stop.

While I know nothing of the terror they are running from and can only imagine what they feel, I do know what they are running to. Bangladesh is a tiny country, about the size of Iowa, yet it has a population of about half of the United States. Imagine if half of all the US would decide to move to Iowa tomorrow? And then accept 400,00 refugees in 30 days!

Bangladesh is already struggling to deal with the massive flooding that has hit the region, the worst in decades. As a developing country, resources are stretched thin in the best of times. Lack of space and resources are a very real problem.

If there is a family on the other side of the world that has to live in a concrete pipe, or huddle under a tiny piece of plastic while the flood waters rise inches away, can I say, “Be blessed” and scroll on to the next tidbit of news?

Every voice is needed when there is an ethnic cleansing going on. Never think your voice is little or your circle of influence too small. There is always something you can do.

For Myanmar, for the Rohingya, you can pray. You can be aware and share the awareness. You can give. Unicef UK, Oxfam, and UNHCR are all working with the Rohingya.

You can also write to your senators urging them not to support giving aid to Myanmar’s army.

And hug your lil’ ones a little more today. See past the mess of your home to feel the abundance that you have right here, right now. Feel the love, and then give it away.

 

Swept Away

Image taken by Austin in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the very beginning of the flooding.

Long before Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas with catastrophic flooding, Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been experiencing a monsoon gone wild. In Bangladesh, the Jamuna River has risen higher than in 1988, the year of the deadliest flood they have seen up to this point. The death toll across the region has hit 1200, and the rain continues to pour down with a vengeance. A couple weeks ago, one of the Pebble staff told me that 30% of the country was under water. Today it’s closer to two-thirds of the country.

Flooding in one of Pebble’s production areas.

 

Throughout the region,including India and Nepal,  some hospitals are filling with water. Clean drinking water is a scarcity. 18,000 schools have closed, affecting 1.8 million children. For  those that remain open, children must sometimes walk in water more than waist deep.  Homes have been damaged or swept away by mudslides.  Farmland, which is the source of life for countless families, is underwater, some washed away to never return. Crops gone. Lives are lost. Necessities vanished.  For the many day laborers, providing for their family is impossible. 32 out of the 64 districts in Bangladesh are affected and 335 shelters have been set up, housing more than 106,000 people. Most of Pebble’s production centers are in the southern part of the country and they have fared well. The center in the north that Austin visited this summer, suffered from sudden flooding. While the situation is better now, the flood left behind various illnesses which local organizations are helping to address.

Our hearts break for Texas, but there is also room in our hearts to weep for Bangladesh, India and Nepal? Imagine if half of the United States was under water. Imagine the news coverage and the rescue operations and charities that would shine through. You see this spirit at work in Texas right now. Yet this disaster is going down right now in a country that has only been a country for 46 years. A country that is constantly dealing with flooding, cyclones, and other disasters. A country that has made it onto the list of the 50 poorest countries in the world. A country that has the land mass of Iowa, filled with 163 million people. People who embrace life and welcome the stranger. Who love to share tea and curry and a hearty discussion.  Who held my babies when they were little and taught me to speak a new language and to cook with color and spice.  A people whose strength and resilience inspire me daily.

For more details and poignant images, visit here and here. To raise your voice in protest of the lack of coverage of the disaster in SE Asia compared to Texas, visit here. There is an email address there that you can use to join the conversation. There is also a very interesting conversation here on similarities and differences in the two floods.