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Sunday, 18 May 2008

the breaking of the walls

~I should perhaps start this entry with a warning that it contains difficult and disturbing subject matter about the rape of women in Darfur. If this is a subject you find personally painful, you may wish to skip this entry.~

Lately I feel like God has been softening my heart towards the world. I don't mean that I am hard hearted, but if we are honest with ourselves, we build up walls around us in order to deal with the horrors we hear of or see on the screen. We don't know how to deal with it, we feel helpless, so some mechanism inside us shuts down our vision and we look away - we walk by on the other side.

The crunch really came on Wednesday when after feeling progressively more and more aware of the pain in this world - sensitised in fact, a leaflet fell out of a magazine about the women of Darfur. It seems God had been preparing my heart for that very moment, for without the walls around my heart it felt as if I had been pierced with a dagger. I read about these women who are raped on their way to collect water or firewood - how they have little choice since if they don't go, their children will have no water; if they send their husbands, they will be killed (if they haven't been already). According to the
Women's Commission, about 200 women are raped daily. This is not just one man, but many, taking turns. As I have done further research through various charities, I read about how the Janjaweed sing while they rape the women. I have read testimonies from witnesses about the utterly appalling things done to these women - and when I say women I also mean girls - 11 year olds, gang raped by soldiers.

It's all very well hearing on the news about rape and murder and all kinds of violence, but as I determined to look into this further, the horrific reality of it set in. I have always found rape an appalling subject - I can't watch or read anything which has a rape 'storyline'. Not from any personal experience but simply something I have always had an extremely active aversion to - I cannot tell myself 'this is only fiction' or 'that's only ketchup' as you might with more general gore and violence (not that I cope particularly well with that these days either). Hence when I hear about rape 'in the real' I tend to feel overwhelmed by the horror of it.

But here I collided head on with the horror, meeting it with a rising sense of the need to do something. To no longer avoid looking at it but to recognise it - in this place, in Darfur, where it is rife and the women are so unprotected as they are raped by uniformed soldiers, in front of their families, their mothers, their children. I cannot say why God has put this issue in front of me, only that he has. Frequently I find myself crying over it as I think of these women, and praying fiercely for their protection. God is breaking my heart.

In July 2007, a UN resolution was agreed by the Sudanese government to send a UN/African Union peacekeeping force to protect the civilians of Darfur. But full deployment of this force has been obstructed and delayed, and every day the risks and the violence continue.

I am going to quote a witness cited by Amnesty International - again I shall preface this with a warning that this is a particularly disturbing statement:

'Janjawid militia and government soldiers attacked a primary school for girls, raping the pupils. They were aged between 8 and 13. They were in shock, bleeding, screaming and crying. It was horrific. Because I told people what happened, the authorities arrested me. They said, 'we will show you what rape is'. They beat me severely. At night, three men raped me. The following day the same thing, different men. Torture and rape, every day, torture and rape.' - Halima Basheer, survivor of gang rape and torture in Darfur.

I am aware there is little I can do to protect the women of Darfur. But I am determined to continue researching the subject and find any way I can. In the meantime, I've decided to raise money for them by selling a booklet of my poems - such a small, silly thing, but something that at the moment I can do. Selling is the wrong word, I intend to ask for a donation of £5 per person, in return I will give them the booklet, to do with what they will. I may not be very well but Helen Keller was blind and deaf; William Wilberforce suffered from ill health all his life. There is always something. Do we choose not to do something simply because it is small? Do we let those walls reform around our hearts? Do we look into our own apathy and say NO?'

I shall finish with some words I often remember:

"I am only one; but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something.
I will not refuse to do something I can do."

- Helen Keller


lynn said...

Lucy, you have really touched me with your response. As I read your posting, what I can only describe as "Holy Spirit" shiver has gone right through me.

You are clearly responding to a cry that's on God's heart. He's weeping over this and he's seeking us out to pray and respond practically.

I will facebook you my details (oooh a new verb) and of course I will buy your some books of poems. I'd love to sell a few up here, if that's OK with you.

Bless you. You're absolutely right when you say there is power in only one - Jackie Pullinger was only one setting out in a boat to Hong Kong as was Gladys Aylward to China. You're in the company of women who hear the voice of God and respond.

Lucy said...

Thanks Lynn for your support - I really appreciate it. I think that it's so important that we encourage each other in the things God puts on our hearts x

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster