This report I read recently sent a chill down my spine.
A video published by CNN appeared to depict a slave auction in Libya, where migrants fleeing conflict and famine in their home countries were sold as slaves for about $400 each.
Although the report resulted in a public outcry around the world demanding that officials take action against the Libyan slave trade, I’m afraid it only touches the surface of human depravity around the world — and does little to put a face on its victims.
In the past few years, I’ve found myself exposed to media reports and personal stories that have driven me to consider suffering in a way I never have before. In my experiences as an evangelist in Asia and a small-town reporter in a county on the edge of Appalachia, I have observed with eyes and ears the plight of many people who, by birth or by mere circumstance, suffer. And I don’t know why.
I have read about the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh — the plight of thousands of Muslims who are persecuted by Buddhists (of all people) and unwanted by the world. I have spoken with women who sold their bodies to strangers so they could buy drugs and forget the pain of childhood abuses. I have seen beggars lining the streets in China and Thailand, pleading for cash and food.
In this season of thankfulness, family gatherings, gift-giving and feasts, I have my own begging to do: Please — I implore you — take a moment to say a prayer of peace for those who suffer so deeply around the world.
I do not understand suffering. I believe there is a God, and I believe he is good. I have known him and sought to know him more since my childhood, and I do not doubt his presence in my heart and in the world. I can’t imagine walking through life without knowing the Almighty, though many do just that, and many die not knowing him. I have spent more time than I care to admit plumbing the depths of my heart to justify the presence of both the God I love and such intense pain in this bruised world, and many times I have come up empty.
Sometimes, I feel a little like Anes Alazabi, who works at a detention center in Tripoli that holds migrants set to be deported back to the places they fled. Alazabi told CNN that he feels pain when he hears their stories.
“I’m suffering for them,” he said.
So I pray.
I get on my knees most nights, and in the absence of my own words, which often fail me in those times, I pray the Lord’s Prayer, or portions of it — kingdom come, will be done.
In the coming weeks, I hope you will do the same.
As you do, I hope you will also find a place in your heart to consider doing some research and donating to one of the hundreds of charitable organizations that can meet some of the physical, spiritual and psychological needs of the sufferers I mentioned, and others who may be special to you.
Further, I beg of you not to hesitate before giving your resources on behalf of my brothers and sisters who suffer, in furtherance of the work of the same God at whom I have shaken my fist in anger that suffering exists in the first place. Please give generously and without reserve to the children of the world who are in pain, both here and there.
If you see suffering and feel compelled to give, please do not consider for a moment whether or not you should. Give impulsively. And I promise you, just as you have contributed to the healing of the world, there will be a healing in your own heart, and you will be better for it.
If you already give through tithe or donation, I challenge you to give a little extra this season. I understand financial constraints are all too real, especially this time of year, and the demands of gift-giving to family and friends should be considered as well. But I feel compelled to ask, and I hope you will feel compelled to give.
I don’t think I’ve come much closer to understanding suffering, and maybe that’s the point. But I do believe it should drive us to a place of greater compassion and generosity for each other and for the world.
And, while many will likely gather at the holiday table to give thanks for the things which they have and others do not, it is my prayer that you will be one of the few who, like Anes Alazabi or like the Christ himself, are moved with compassion for those who are in pain — and I hope you choose to do something about it.
In lieu of a list of trustworthy charities, I ask that you consider visiting www.charitynavigator.org and search your own cause or charity.
Thank you for reading. God bless you.
David Wright is a reporter for The Times-Gazette. He can be reached by calling 937-402-2570, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.