As you may know, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Bosnia Herzegovina last month. I was enraptured by its majestic mountains; captivated by its warm and generous people; and completely heartbroken over its war-torn history.
If I’m honest, I don’t think I had a really clear understanding of the conflict that took place there in the 1990s. At a time when I was crushing on boys and learning to tease my bangs (don’t hate!); there were children my age struggling for survival. I know this, because I met them last month. I heard their stories of falling asleep in the basement listening to grenades explode outside. I heard their stories of losing loved ones and living in constant fear. One young woman told me,
“When you think you can’t take any more and you simply can’t go on… you just do”
My short visit there provided a graphic illustration to a spotty story line I remember hearing on the news growing up…bombs exploding…genocide…lives lost…hunger…armed forces advancing.
Nothing prepares you to see building after building blown out or riddled with bullet holes. I certainly wasn’t prepared to see an entire graveyard with lines of gravestones as far as you could see, marked with the year 1993.
How could this be reality? It certainly wasn’t mine.
I’ve fought my own battle to not leave the unsettling memories behind as I boarded the plane back to my own comfortable reality. I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I returned home.
I think some of the most dangerous words in the English vocabulary are these…
US and THEM
These words divide. They remove the bonds of friendship. They separate. They put distance.
In some way I think it’s easy, perhaps even human nature, to think that because we speak a different language, live in a different land or look different that we are somehow separate or safe from the atrocities that take place in our world.
Just because it isn’t your reality, doesn’t mean it isn’t reality.
I met people just like me. People full of dreams. People looking for love and acceptance. People who want to provide for their families. People who like to hang out with their friends, enjoy good music, like to make jokes, maybe even watch reality TV. They’re just people… like you and me… and their lives were rocked at their most core level.
I’ve struggled with why God would allow me the opportunity to see first hand the aftermath of war. Why did it make sense that I would find myself plopped down in the middle of this beautiful people with so little to offer in the way of help?
I still don’t clearly have all the answers, but one thing that has consistently resonated within me is this…
They’re not the only ones.
Yes, the conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina has subsided right now, but what about Ukraine? What about South Sudan? What about the victims of human trafficking? What about Syria?
Do we know? Do we care? Do we realize that we are not exempt from the pain experienced?
This last week marked the three-year anniversary for the crisis in Syria. I watched this video that outlines the experience of a child in Syria. It guts me. It tells the story of innocence lost and it’s not just the story of one child.
You can find out more about how you can champion the children of Syria here.
I know this post is a bit more serious than my average post, but I can’t shake this feeling. Whatever little platform or spotlight I might have, I want to use it to shine the light on things that matter. I think we have to be unsettled. I think we have to confront our own comfort.
Ignorance is not bliss.