Justice is not just theory
There are moments when we really find out what we believe, when our
commitments rub up against our fears. That’s happening to me right now.
My older daughter is 20. She is about to begin her junior year at the University
of Minnesota. She is majoring in Religion and Cultural Studies, a brand new
major at the U. But as this issue is being distributed to congregations, she will
be leaving for a semester in Central America — four or five weeks each in
Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua as part of an Augsburg College Center for
Global Education program.
In theory, I couldn’t be prouder. My wife and I have spent years working with
people who live in or travel to Central America working for justice there and
here for the residents of the countries my daughter will visit. We have hosted in
our home people who were victims of torture and whose friends were killed by
right-wing military governments.
But now my daughter is going to those countries. Why? Because she wants to
learn about things like community development, sustainable economies, and
I find myself praying for her safety with renewed vigor. While this discipline has
been good for my prayer life, it has been challenging as well.
I do pray for the children of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sudan, Iraq, and north
Minneapolis with some regularity. My congregation prays for these young
brothers and sisters corporately during the worship services, and I pray for them
But I don’t pray with the same fervor that I now pray for my daughter. Why is
that? What makes it possible for me to live with the fact that there are children
as talented and beautiful as my daughter starving to death in Sudan? How can I
so easily accept that so many young women, girls really, in the Philippines are
sexually exploited in the international sex trade?
Are these children not my brothers and sisters too?
I unashamedly pray for my daughter’s safety during her study travel. But I also
pray that I am challenged to be ever more vigilant about making myself aware of
the conditions under which the other children of God live. I commit to putting
more of my being into the transformation of this world. Right now, it’s the only
way to deal with my fear.