A Call to Action in the Central African Republic

Sorry, but I’m about to rock your pleasant workday.

Since I returned from my trip to Rwanda with Catholic Relief Services, I read the news headlines with a new type of intensity. It seems I can no longer sip my dark roast while I flip through the news on my iPad, and then go about my business.

Instead, I lap up stories about Africa — the chaos, the violence, and also, blessedly, sometimes the amazing progress — and I see the faces of the children who posed with me in selfies or the women who hosted us in their neighborhoods.

I remember the smell of the mummified corpses we walked amidst at the Murambi Genocide Memorial Center and the dry heaves and sobs I barely held back as I stood in that spot swearing to myself that I’d use every bit of energy I had to see a type of a tragedy like the Rwandan genocide (which claimed half a million lives in one hundred days) never unfold again.

I ponder my vision of “busyness” and how it’s kept me from giving all I have to follow through on that vow.

And then, I read a story like this one.

Writing for BBC News Africa, Peter Boukaert shares (read at your own risk – this is grisly stuff):

It was an absolutely horrific scene when we arrived at the entrance to the airport in Bangui.

We found a large mob of people, and French soldiers at the scene. The crowd was mutilating two bodies of Muslim men that they had just killed with machetes.

There were probably about a dozen people involved in the mutilation. They were probably members of the anti-balaka Christian militia.

Large crowds of people had gathered, including children.

They cut one man’s genitals off and put them in his mouth.

It really was a scene of absolute horror.

People were filming this on their cell phones and many were laughing. When we left the scene, they said: “Keep on filming, because we’re not yet done.”

If you need more evidence of how bad the situation is, visit this slideshow at your own discretion.

The news account goes on to share the unraveling chaos and misery unfolding the region. And we know from news accounts shared by Catholic Relief Services, that things in nearby South Sudan are equally as bleak.

So what can we do? Seriously, what can one simple housewife in Fresno do to possibly quell the tide of such atrocities half a world away? I wrote to my friends at CRS and asked them this question, and they offered a few concrete actions:

  1. I can donate to CRS’ Central African Republic Emergency Fund. My decision to fast and pray for relief in CAR can be united with a small pledge that will provide greatly needed assistance to the families being served in the region.
  2. I can sign up for emergency and action alerts at Catholics Confront Global Poverty to be kept abreast of ways in which I can provide support.
  3. Hard as it may seem, I can seek out — on a daily basis — news about what is happening and share it via social media in a way that’s not obnoxious, but that invites my friends and loved ones to tune into what’s happening in Africa.

Some of you may read this and think, “Why bother? There is enough need and violence in my own community to keep me busy, and I’m helping there.” This is true, but I honestly don’t think that most of us could imagine the level of the atrocities being perpetrated in CAR. I’m not saying that we avoid our own communities’ needs. I’m simply saying that perhaps we play one less round of Angry Birds or watch one less TV show, or that we buy one less new app for our smartphones and instead give a bit to feed people who are living in desperation.

If you’re still reading this, I ask you to consider sharing it with your loved ones. I ask you to join me in daily prayer for an end to this inhumanity. And I ask you to join me in uniting our prayers to the work being done by Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga to seek an immediate and lasting response to the violence in the region. It’s time to educate ourselves and to realize that we must each wake up and be the change that we desire.

Copyright © 2014, Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.

One response to “A Call to Action in the Central African Republic”

  1. Lisa, this is so important. Thank you for being such a tireless advocate and for making those of us who feel we can’t do much remember that yes, we can.

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