Friday, December 29, 2000

War Zone

I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2

My admitted naiveté concerning the war in the former Yugoslavia is one that I unfortunately run across too frequently among my American counterparts. "Let's go save the world with sunshine, smiles, humanitarian aid and of course our Bibles". What I was faced with in Bosnia shocked me on every level. While the trip left me asking more questions with few answers, I did return with a deeper personal understanding of fighting the impact of war with weapons of compassion and love.

You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. Psalms 80:5

I didn’t know what the "war" was about. It seemed another isolated distant catastrophe that little affects American habits of the high-life. The media didn’t give Bosnia half the airtime it gives to the Palestinian terrorists who lurk on Israeli streets. Whose singular acts may kill and maim 10 or 15, while there were 10's of thousands killed during the conflict in the Bosnia.

God has turned me over to evil men and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. Job 16:11

The nationals we met, told of Serbian "Christians" who went into villages occupied by Muslims and practiced the atrocities of "Rape Warfare" (a brutal tactic supported and commanded by those in power of publicly raping women and children to create the removal of unwanted populations). They burned the houses down and painted crosses on the charred remnants. Mosques were bombarded and replaced by quaint chapels complete with steeples and crosses, the lives of the population and innocence of their children stolen through horrific circumstances I knew nothing about. Sound familiar? It did to me.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter Isaiah 53:7

The casualness of typical comments "those weren't REAL Christians" echoed with familiarity. I have heard this same statement said to Jewish friends who relate the horrors suffered at the hands of Nazi's and their cohorts. Explaining, “who are the REAL Christians” is just not that simple. I returned home asking why? “Where were You when these enemies were blaspheming Your name? How could You look away?”

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34

What could I say to a woman, critically disabled and widowed by the war, crawling on the floor of her apartment with no water, no electricity? Within the walls made from the muddy hillside she cares for her five-year old daughter who stares vacantly back at the visitors bearing gifts. Can I say simply "Jesus loves you"?

For God so loved the world … John 3:16

I was confronted by a twenty-one year old Bosnian "How could you as a Christian stand by while our people were being systematically slaughtered? Why weren't you in Washington protesting, why weren't you here fighting for change to stop the awful carnage? Why?" My shameful response echoed with familiar World War II verbiage "I didn't know".

During the conversation I realized this is not my battle - it is the Lord's. Bosnia is only one tragedy in a world full of cruelty, horror, shame and disgrace that has gone on since the fall of Creation. There is nothing new under the sun.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

Obviously the compelling of God can take us into difficult circumstances, cause more questions than answers, coupled with the guilt of Western excess. I flew out of Sarajevo on a 747, and returned home to my 2 computers, down comforter and pillows to keep me cozy while I "process" what happened to Bosnia.

Yet God is still acting on behalf of His creation. He still cares about human suffering and injustice. He is still compelling people all across the world to act with compassion, love and concern on behalf of nations and individuals. He is still motivating and calling people to repentance towards others. And the lives of those wounded by wars, haunted by shadows of things past can still be touched by our presence in the midst of their pain and the simple words "I'm sorry".

So our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy. Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. Psalms 123:2-3