Welcome to August! In the month of August there are four days on which the UN commemorates human situations in the world today that weigh heavily on us:
August 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. 370 million indigenous people living across 90 countries in the world today make up less than five per cent of the world’s population. These people inherit unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment and are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world today. This year is dedicated to Indigenous People’s Languages. It is estimated that, every two weeks, an indigenous language disappears, placing at risk cultures and knowledge systems of these peoples. Perhaps we rarely, if ever, think of these people, beyond curiously reading articles about an uncontacted people being caught on camera deep in Amazon. Yet we all are poorer for their loss.
On August 21 and 22 and 30 we commemorate the victims of terrorism, the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, and victims of enforced disappearances.
Victims of violence struggle to have their voices heard, their needs supported and their rights upheld. After the initial news splash, victims of terrorist attacks often feel forgotten and neglected. There are continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals and communities around the world, and the number and intensity of these incidents are increasing. Enforced disappearance has frequently been used as a strategy to spread terror within society. The feeling of insecurity generated by this practice is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects their communities and society as a whole. As terrorist events and other acts of violence are on the rise in an increasingly more unstable world, we all can feel overwhelmed and find our emotions spiraling out of control.
My friends, let’s pause right here.
What are you feeling? What is happening in your heart?
Do you feel yourself sinking, hiding, withdrawing,
angry, overwhelmed, powerless, or…?
I feel my heart closing… How can I effectively matter to these people? Certainly, I care. But I want to care deeply. I want to feel that these strangers are my brothers and sisters. I want to touch my most generous love for all of them and each of them, wherever they are, whatever they experience. I want to touch our oneness. I want to marvel that despite the evil and darkness that we can perpetrate against each other, it is, as Thomas Merton said in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, “a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes terrible mistakes; yet, with all that, God Himself glories in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! …I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate.”
Take a moment to breathe in the wonder
of this spark of truth that lies at the foundation
of our common human destiny.
Breathe it in, again and again.
Take in the wonder of God’s extravagant
and mad love for us.
I see now that it is God who can open my heart to fall in love with this humanity so threatened with shadows and fear, to give myself with a caring heart that pours itself out in the fragrance of prayer and hope, to surrender myself to the work he has called me to do no matter how small…or great…it may be.
This month let prayer, surrender, and calm
fill your hearts as we cherish our fragile world
so loved by our powerful and merciful Father.