Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Holy Innocents: We can do something

“Blessed are all 
who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2:11b

The Christian calendar today holds one of grimmest of markers for the year: The Feast of the Holy Innocents. The day was transferred to today because of the clogging of the Christian calendar with other feast days that take a backseat to Christmas.

Marla Ruzicka, right, with a family in Iraq
shortly before she was killed
This may seem like a very odd day for a feast. It is, after all, the day we commemorate the slaughter of innocent children at the hands of  King Herod, as told in the Gospel of Matthew.

Herod murdered all of the first born boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus, the one who the Magi had told him would grow up to be a king. Jesus and his family escaped, but the carnage and anguish in Bethlehem was great.


What to make of the Holy Innocents? Should we turn away from the awfulness of this story?


What comes to mind is that the world is full of Holy Innocents – children who are killed or maimed in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, Syria. Children die as pawns of the powerful. Children die in Gaza and the West Bank, and children die in Bethlehem. And children die from gunfire in their own classrooms in the United States. We don’t need a King Herod to feel shame for the deaths of millions of innocent children in our world.

As I write this, millions of Syrian refugees are fleeing from ISIS, and millions of them are children. Rather than giving them safe refuge, we are letting only a trickle into our country. Instead of showing them our compassion, they have become sound-bites in our presidential politics.

A friend of mine says we should meet them at the airport with balloons and signs saying welcome. It would drive ISIS nuts.

There is something more we can do.

For several years I have been supporting the work of CIVIC – The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, an organization that documents the plight and advocates for refugees and victims caught in the cross-fire of the world’s conflicts. Its purpose:
“Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict works on behalf of war victims by advocating that warring parties recognize and help the civilians they harm. CIVIC supports the principle that it is never acceptable for a warring party to ignore civilian suffering.”
CIVIC was founded by a very brave young woman, Marla Ruzicka, from Lakeport, California, who in the months after 9/11 went to the frontlines herself to document what she saw, and then bring that information to the doorstep of decision-makers in Washington.

Marla was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. She was only 24.

It was my privilege to say prayers for her in the California Senate after she died, and I can tell you some very hardened politicians shed tears that day.

CIVIC has not only continued her work, but expanded it, going to Libya, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Lebanon and Israel. CIVIC works on a shoestring budget but it has had a huge impact by getting Congress to allocate funds to compensate war victims in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bringing the stories of real people caught in warfare to the media.

CIVIC has gone everywhere it can go, working with officials from the United Nations, and with governments in Israel and Lebanon, Russia and Georgia, and everywhere there is warfare. To read a summary of CIVIC’s accomplishments, click HERE.

I know that all of us are inundated this time of year with appeals for funds. But what better way to remember the Holy Innocents than by giving to CIVIC? I will be giving today as my devotion to this Holy day. Please join me. You can make a donation to CIVIC by clicking HERE.

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