I dreamt the other night I was in the reception area of a Concentration Camp. It was in Northwest China where the Uyghur and other Central Asian people are going through a genocide. It is a horrible nightmare for them. I left a bag for the young Uyghur man working there. In my dream I had forgotten to get my phone out of the bag so had to go back and find it. In the bag he’d already wrapped a small New Testament I had left in a piece of clothing. I grabbed my phone and left.
Later as I mulled over this dream I remembered my first trip to China in 1980 with my husband. We were in our early 20’s and working in Hong Kong for the Red Cross. We taught English in a refugee camp for Vietnamese people. During that year we took a trip into China. In those days it was hardly open to outsiders. We volunteered with a group that was smuggling Bibles through tourists into Guangzhou. Before our trip a big strong Texan in a cowboy hat and boots loaded up two suitcases and two carry-on pieces of luggage full of small Chinese Bibles. We could hardly carry the suitcases. We struggled across the border and of course caught the eye of the border security. They looked in those big suitcases and confiscated them. We could pick them up on our way out the next day. They did not look into our hand luggage. So we took them in and dropped them off somewhere in the hotel we were staying for someone to pick up.
We no longer smuggle Bibles into China. We only did that once, but we did move there to teach English in the mid 80’s. We lived in the northwest region and many of our students were Uyghur and Kazakh as well as Han Chinese. I can say we didn’t smuggle Bibles but we did smuggle hope. We had many conversations about God, the purpose of life and each of our belovedness. These conversations brought hope to people who knew there was more to life than what the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) was telling them. Even then their lives were extremely controlled. Where and if they would go to university. What they would study. Where they would work afterwards. They were told what to think and what to believe.
Now the circumstances are quite dire and dangerous if you happen to be Uyghur or Kazakh or any other Central Asian living in northwest China. Since 2017 over a million people have been interned in concentration camps, where they are constantly indoctrinated (brain washed), they are forced to labor for little or no wages, tortured, dehumanized, children separated from their families, sterilized, and the list goes on.
How can we smuggle hope to these people? It seems impossible, but if they could just know people care and are working in different ways to push back on China for these gross human rights abuses.
What if we shopped carefully trying to avoid products made in China? Many of which are made or sourced in this region. What if we personally boycotted the Olympics? What if we found the Uyghurs in our nation and reached out to them with some hope, letting them know we see them.
These are just a few thoughts wondering how regular people like you and me can help end a genocide.
(When I lived in a city called Gulja, I remember hearing mothers calling their children to come home. They would sing their names out the doorways or open windows. The children would start making their way home when they heard their names.)
If only I could hear her voice again. She called me from the window, singing my name down the street. The sun had set. I knew it was time to come home and eat the delicious meal she prepared every night for us. I would skip home throwing open the door to find her in her apron serving the food to my father and brother. She would nudge me to the sink to wash my hands. My father would tussle my hair, my brother would give me a playful punch. We would eat our meal together, savoring the flavors and the love we had for each other.
In my dreams I hear her calling, singing my name down the street. I can never find my way home. There is always an ocean to cross or a gate I can’t get through or soldiers blocking my way.
I have been hearing this phrase more and more lately. It’s a handy little phrase. I’ve used it myself many times when I am struggling to understood an issue or a situation. It is true that life is complicated, human beings are complicated, but I feel like this phrase can be used now as an excuse, a way of not getting involved. It is a way of distancing oneself from a messy perhaps dangerous situation. There are numerous situations going on around the world that are both messy and dangerous.
I wonder in a revised version of the Good Samaritan story if one of the religious leaders who crossed the street away from the poor guy beaten and left for dead may have mumbled to himself as he hurried away – “It’s complicated…maybe he deserved what he got or maybe he has a contagious disease, or worse if I stop and help maybe someone will get me next!”
Last night I attended a vigil, calling for an end of the inhumane detention of immigrants in our country. I was heartened to see the church where the vigil was hosted packed out. More and more people are outraged at the news that is coming out and wanting to get involved or at least learn about what is happening. It was helpful to hear from women who themselves endured the indignity of being locked up and treated as a criminal. (No it is not illegal to seek asylum.) Both women mentioned how terrible it was to witness the way children were treated. One saw the the agents tearing children away from their parents.
There are numerous things we can do to help. We can raise our voices for the voiceless. We can contact our representatives both federally and locally. We can volunteer, we can donate, we can educate ourselves and help others understand. We each can do something.
Let faith have wings that lift us to pray
Let hope have eyes that look for solutions
Let love have feet that move us to action
May we take a risk to love our neighbors who are in great need rather than turn our backs on them because “it’s complicated”.
I do not know what the answers are to good immigration reform. I need to learn. I do know inhumane treatment of immigrants is not one them. Another phrase I am hearing that I like much better is “This is not a political issue it is a moral issue.”