February 25, 2009

Senseless Violence

2009 1506 page29 capiolence haunts every corner of the world. Violence and words such as terrorism, war, murder, and retribution are increasingly commonplace in our conversations.

When I served the church at the United Nations, I had the opportunity to attend a United Nations General Assembly session at which the endemic problem of violence was discussed. The description of widespread violence in Colombia especially captured my attention.
A Case Study
For 40 years Colombia had been engulfed in an ongoing civil war. Bands of guerillas and paramilitary roamed the countryside, wreaking havoc on the country’s citizens. Thousands of innocent persons lost their life simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because they took an alternative view in a political dispute. Millions of people were displaced because of increased levels of violence and forced into poverty, barely surviving from day to day.
In a study conducted by Open Doors International, a human rights organization, it was found that at the time approximately three violent deaths occurred in Colombia every hour, roughly 71 deaths per day. Forty-five percent of the world’s kidnappings occurred in Colombia, with a new abduction taking place on an average of every three hours.
2009 1506 page29Colombia’s president, Alvaro Uribe, recognizing his country’s horrific problem, addressed the General Assembly by stating: “Colombia has one of the highest rates of violence in the world. . . . At my own inauguration 21 people were killed in a terrorist attack. . . . Yesterday six children were kidnapped. We need the world’s assistance; we need significant multilateral support.”
Since then the level of violence in Colombia has decreased dramatically. But in countless countries around the world criminal and military factions exact a terrible toll in death and suffering among the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the population.
A Call to Action
Seventh-day Adventists can answer the urgent call to reduce levels of hostility around the world by preaching the peaceful, loving message of Jesus on a wider scale.
For example, Open Doors International found that some guerrillas and paramilitary groups are open to being reached by the gospel. In fact, in some countries a small portion of combatants have actually deserted their militaristic organizations after learning about God’s love and forgiveness. These same deserters have also begun to preach the gospel themselves, targeting everyone around them, especially their former comrades.
We can also support humanitarian efforts to provide food, water, and medical supplies to populations affected by armed conflicts, where suffering is all the more serious because of a lack of shelter and security.
All victims of violence need our help. As we go about our daily routines, let’s explore options, individually and as a church, to aid societies inundated by hatred, strife, and senseless violence. 
Mindi Rahn served as liaison officer for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the United Nations from 2002-2003. She has also taught history at Atlantic Union College.