Category Archives: Terrorism

Dirty Little Secret

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The Armed Forces have for years now instructed our soldiers to ignore the sexual abuse of boys by Afghan leaders viewed as allies of the United States [1].  Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, Jr. told his father, “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.”

In an effort to keep this dirty little secret, the Navy (which oversees the Marine Corps.) has decided to discharge Major Jason Brezler for sharing his concerns with fellow Marines, using an unclassified server [2].

A similar case arose in 2011, when Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland struck an Afghan police official for the rape of a teenage boy.  In that instance, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)intervened, and the Army allowed the Green Beret to stay in the service.

According to former Special Forces Captain Dan Quinn, “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did – that was something village elders voiced to me.”

Quinn was relieved of his command, and pulled from Afghanistan after beating an Afghan commander who kept a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.  Quinn subsequently left the military.

There is yet another layer of complexity to the situation.  The Taliban is using child sex slaves to infiltrate Afghan forces, and carry out deadly assaults [3].  Lance Cpl. Buckley (above) and two other Marines were killed by a group of boys living on base with an Afghan police commander. Continue reading

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Becoming Ourselves

Photo of artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (PD).  Though O’Keeffe’s vision was compromised by macular degeneration in later years, she continued to work well into her 90s.

It has been said that we become more ourselves, as we grow older.  Superficial beauty fades, and a softer (or, in some cases, starker) beauty takes its place.  This incorporates our scars, evidence of the life we have lived, with and without our consent.

We long, in youth, to be part of a larger whole – the beloved or a noble cause, perhaps.  The paths we take determine greatly – and depend greatly on – whether or not that happens.

The heart calls us to venues and ventures we would never have thought ourselves capable of pursuing, let alone achieving.  Sometimes though it seems we are being led.  Not by our desires alone, but by some external force.

“…[H]e made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver” (Isa. 49: 2).

Most of us must deal with tragedy, along the way.  Some lives are cut short by it.  Grief and loss can arise from many causes in this imperfect world:  abuse, racism, poverty, and violence, to name a few.

We are shaped by these experiences, and can be broken by them.  Chances are, we will be forced to make difficult choices.  Almost everyone is.

For a tree branch to be made into an arrow, it must be stripped of leaves (John 15: 2); fired, so as to become pliable (Isa. 48: 10, Rom. 5: 3 and 8: 28, James 1: 2-4, 1 Pet. 1: 6-7); straightened (Eph. 2: 21 and 4: 15-16, Heb. 10: 24-25); sanded (Heb. 12: 7-11); and oiled (Ps. 104: 15, Gal. 5: 22-23, Eph. 5: 18) [1].

Ultimately, the arrow finds its target.  So, too, will our lives, in God’s hands, find their intended target…even if that target is not what we originally supposed.

We can rely on that.

[1]   All credit for this information about arrow construction, and the biblical citations associated with it goes to Fountaingate Christian Foundation. See, ChurchLink, Bible Study Warehouse, Series:  The Call – Lesson 7,  “Preparation for Ministry”,  http://www.churchlink.com.au/churchlink/bible_studies/call/call7.html. Copyright © 1981, 1996 Paul Bunty and David Collins. All rights reserved.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

 

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Innocents – Lost Along the Way

So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every [Hebrew] son who is born you shall cast into the river…’ ” (Ex. 1: 22).

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under…” (Matt. 2: 16).

Nearly four thousand years ago, a pharaoh ordered all male infants born to an ethnic minority drowned. Seventeen hundred years later, a king ordered all male children aged two and under slaughtered.

Innocents are still being slaughtered. Some die quickly by sword or gunshot, some die slowly by disease and starvation.  And some die at the hands of those who should love them.

A powerful ruler attempted to exterminate an ethnic minority. But God brought forth a deliverer, Moses, and the nation Israel was born. A cruel king attempted to defend his throne against a babe born in a manger. But God brought forth Jesus Christ, the Redeemer for all nations and all peoples on the earth.

In the end, good triumphs.  There are all too many casualties lost along the way.  But good triumphs.  That is worth holding onto.

Have a Merry Christmas!

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Kidnapped by Boko Haram

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent…
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.”

– “Meditation XVII” by John Donne (1624)

WARNING: Graphic Images

The extremist group Boko Haram has since 2009 led a brutal insurgency in Nigeria with the twin goals of imposing Sharia law and establishing an Islamic regime. Boko Haram is known to utilize child soldiers; engage in the forced conversion, castration, and beheading of non-Muslim men and boys, as well as the kidnap, rape, and forced marriage of women and girls.

Mary Patrick was one of 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 [1]. The horrors she faced during four months of captivity included cannibalism, the murder of her older sister, and repeated rape by as many as five men at a time.

Given a Muslim name and forced to recite verses from the Quran, over and over, Mary began to lose her identity. Thankfully, she managed to escape before it was too late.

Why the World Matters

Why should this matter to American women? Why should it matter to abuse victims, in particular?

Many abuse victims are likewise brutalized. This tends to focus our attention inward, on short-term survival. But there is a great deal of pain in the world…not ours alone. The girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are just one example.

Abuse victims understand pain. That others, too, have suffered should not demoralize us. Rather, it should motivate us to reach out to one another.

Isolated by abuse though we have been, we are part of the world. We have a responsibility toward the world. And the exercise of that responsibility may actually prove healing to us.

Connection

During the Middle Ages, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” as it was known killed an estimated 75-200 million men, women, and children.

The dead grew so numerous that mass graves had to be dug. Venice and other cities banned the ringing of church bells during funeral processions. The sound was thought to discourage the living.

During one outbreak, the poet and clergyman, John Donne, wrote that no man is an island. We are all connected. That is how Christians see things or should. We are connected to one another – whether abuse victims, plague victims, or the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Leaving the Past Behind

No one can blame victims for seeking to forget their experience of abuse. We long to blot abuse off the face of the earth, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, much as we may desire to leave the past behind, we are often bombarded with unwelcome reminders of it [2]. The ongoing barrage of triggers can feel like defeat; the flashbacks, like daily fresh wounds in a war that has gone on for years [3]. We simply cannot move beyond the pain.

While recovery is not a matter of will power, confronting our demons may help us cut them down to size [4]. And using our experience to benefit others can give meaning to our suffering.

Outward toward the World

If we can manage to direct our attention outward toward the world, we may find that what we have suffered has actually increased our empathy for the suffering of others. Their suffering is personal for us, not merely political.

In turn, they may have lessons they can share with us.

Amazingly, Mary Patrick says that her captivity strengthened her faith. “Before, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t read [the] Bible, I didn’t pray. But now I go to church everyday…I am thankful for my life.”

[1] See, Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter, “Trained to Kill – Learning to Forgive”, August 2015.

[2] Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is frequently accompanied by intense flashes of memory. These flashbacks are triggered by sounds, smells, people, places, thoughts, and feelings which call to mind the traumatic event. Flashbacks can cause physical and emotional reactions, including a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, and profuse sweating.

[3] Coping strategies for dealing with triggers include deep breathing, mindfulness/grounding techniques, exercise, relaxation and self-care, writing, art, music, and prayer. The support of friends and loved ones can be extremely valuable.

[4] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Collection, “Prolonged Exposure vs. Supportive Counseling for Sexual Abuse-Related PTSD in Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Edna Foa PhD, Carmen McLean PhD, Sandra Capaldi PsyD, et al, 12/25/13, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/collection.aspx?categoryid=5862.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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War Wounds

“I am blind to beauty for I have seen the ugliness of war,
My heart discard, my soul’s an open sore,
My spirit’s broken, and my body is not well,
For I have seen the smoke and fire
And passed through the gates of hell… ”

– Kevan Lyons, The Poet of Churchill Square

These are grave times.  Terrorism stalks the world, striking without warning or mercy.  I can think of no better analogy for abuse.

Abuse is a conflict in which children’s lives are the battlefield; a conflict in which children go unarmed, yet have war wounds inflicted; a conflict in which children will never be victors.

Under wartime conditions of deprivation and abandonment, the simplest word of encouragement is denied a young heart.  Under wartime conditions of violence and destruction, the most defenseless among us are battered and broken.  Under wartime conditions of rape and pillage, basic sexuality becomes an item of commerce, and a lifelong source of pain.

Little wonder that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — first identified in the combat setting centuries ago — is common among abuse victims, as well. Continue reading

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Murder in the Family

Many news stories in December were overshadowed by the ongoing Ferguson controversy, the SONY hacking, and a terrorist siege in Sydney which left fatalities. Two, however, warrant our attention.

In Pennsylvania, Bradley Stone killed his ex-wife Nicole and five of her relatives before turning a knife on himself [1]. Victims included Nicole’s mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law, and a 14 y.o. niece. A 17 y.o. nephew is recovering from his wounds. Thankfully, the two Stone daughters were spared.

According to the prosecutor, Stone’s attack was clearly pre-meditated. It has been attributed to a custody dispute. Since Stone was a veteran and briefly on tour in Iraq during 2008, there was speculation that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) might have played a role. The Marines who served with Stone dispute this.

In Australia, a suburban mother (also, wielding a knife) killed seven of her own children and a niece – all youngsters between the ages of 18 months and 15 years [2]. A 20 y.o. sibling found the children. The woman unsuccessfully attempted suicide. She is now under arrest. Continue reading

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All the Jenises

The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1: 7).

A little girl named Jenise died this week [1]. Just six years old, Jenise was raped and murdered by a seventeen year old neighbor in the Washington trailer park where she lived. The teen accused of the crime has been arrested.

But Jenise was not the only child in jeopardy in recent weeks. Around the globe, children’s lives have been at risk from factors equally beyond their control.

  • Shrapnel-torn corpses rained from the sky, after Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by separatists in the Ukraine [2]. The belongings of children were randomly scattered across the debris field.
  • Children in Gaza are dying as a by-product of Israel’s ground war there [3]. Both sides have blood on their hands. The practice by Hamas of shielding military operations by civilian targets has contributed to the death toll. Misdirected fire by Hamas has, also, resulted in the death and injury of children. As of this writing, the rocket bombardment by Hamas which initiated the conflict continues.
  • In Iraq, some quarter million refugees have fled in advance of the Islamic militant group ISIS [4]. Some 40,000 of these (including 25,000 children) from a Kurdish religious sect that predates Islam have been under siege on Mt. Sinjar without supplies. The United States is now providing aid and cover on a limited basis.
  • The world’s worst Ebola outbreak is raging in West Africa, with fears it will spread [5]. The disease has a fatality rate as high as 90%. Over 900 deaths have occurred to this point. Children who have not themselves contracted the disease may still lose one or both parents to it.

Few things drive home our crushing limitations more so than the death of children does. War, crime, and illness pull back the curtain on a painful reality, and we see clearly how little control we have over our lives. That information can rock us to our core.

We may never understand, on an emotional level, why God allowed Jenise’s suffering. We can be sure, however, her suffering pained Him, more even than it does us.

God hears the cries from Gaza and Mt. Sinjar, as He does those from Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. He knows all the Jenises.

At a time like this – when lights seem to be going out across the world – it is more urgent than ever we keep faith and bear witness to the truth. God is not impotent. Nor has He abandoned us. To the contrary, He gave His life for ours.

Men and women of goodwill play a vital role in sharing the love of God with the world, and spreading the Good News of Salvation. We must not permit what appears the increasing presence of evil to undermine our resolve. Continue reading

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Abuse-Related Advocacy

Those of us committed to raising awareness of child abuse and violence against women often invest emotionally in the task. Since many of us are abuse survivors, we have a personal stake in bringing public pressure to bear on issues like the funding and oversight of foster care programs.

This is all to the good.

But the problem of abuse has long and pernicious roots. Neither child abuse nor violence against women is a new phenomenon. Both have been present throughout history, can be found worldwide, and are actually tolerated in certain cultures, if not encouraged. That makes the fight to abolish them or at least seek justice for victims extremely difficult.

Our goal is to do nothing less than change the world.

There are pitfalls associated with this fight. To begin with, depending on the cultural setting, advocacy can be dangerous. Readers will remember Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl attacked by the Taliban in 2012 for a blog post in support of women’s education.

Continual exposure to the ugly details of abuse can be disheartening. In March 2014, federal investigators shut down a global child pornography ring with over 27,000 predators [1]. Victims (mostly male) ranged in age from 3 y.o. and younger to 17 y.o.

Contact with such horrors may cause early burnout, a well recognized risk among social workers.  At a minimum, it can rob us of desire and our capacity to trust the opposite sex. Continue reading

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Common Bond

A rally was held in Nigeria earlier this week to protest that government’s inaction against the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram (translated “Western Education Is Sinful”). The group recently kidnapped some 230 school girls, and is selling them into slavery for as little as $12 or “marrying” them to their captors [1].

Though estimates vary, there are as many as 30 million men, women, and children entrapped in slavery, as I write this.

Included among these are forced laborers recruited under threat of violence, by governments and political parties; chattel slaves abducted from their homes – bought, sold, inherited, and given as gifts; bonded laborers whose loans – impossible of repayment – can be passed from generation to generation; child soldiers; child brides in forced marriages; children engaged in toil destructive of their health and well-being; and sexually exploited women and children, now a basis for sex tourism.

If any of this sounds familiar to Americans, it should. The impact of slavery on our country has been immense. It is a lasting scar the extent of which cannot be summed up in a few neat words.

But slavery has not been confined to a single race or nation. Slavery is referenced as far back as the Code of Hammurabi and the Bible [2]. Slavery existed in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; in Ireland, Poland, and elsewhere across the globe. It existed among Christians and Muslims. Slave labor camps in the form of gulags were utilized as a political tool by Russia until 1960. They persist in China (under the name “laogai”) and North Korea today.

By focusing exclusively on grievances of the past – albeit, legitimate grievances – we may overlook the chance we have as Americans of every stripe to make a difference in the present.

The evils (and insidious after-effects) of slavery should, if anything, make America the nation foremost in seeking an end worldwide to that institution, once and for all. Instead, we remain a house divided, consumed by our own pain. Continue reading

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Attacked at School

Nearly 100 Afghan school girls are believed to have been the victims of gas attacks last month.

In Faryab Province, a man was spotted running toward the school’s orchard at the time of the attack.  In Wardak Province, police found nothing at the school which might have caused the problem. They could not rule out heat and a lack of hygienic conditions. One of the stricken girls, however, reported a “bad smell” and defended her school’s cleanliness.

These were just the latest in a series of incidents involving school girls. In May of this year, 80 girls were taken ill in Faryab Province; another 150, in Balkh Province.  Gas was suspected. In April, 74 girls fell victim in Takhar Province. The odor of gas was present.

The Taliban denies responsibility for these cowardly attacks. There is, however, great fear that the attacks will accelerate once Western forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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