What if we knew?
If we knew: In just the 20th century, over 170 million people have lost their lives as a result of genocide. Genocide has been defined as “the intentional destruction of a national ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part” (Newton and Scharf, 254). Intentional destruction of others takes place on a much larger scale than we like to think. The world’s worst crime, genocide, is the most tremendous form of persecution and the most extreme crime against humanity. Genocide can include, but is not limited to killing members of a group, causing bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Lemkin). The atrocity of genocide is not spontaneous; it does not just happen. It is a planned, systematic, and long-term. There are many individuals around the world today experiencing the tragic impact of the worst crime in the world.
What if we listened?
If we listened: We could learn. We would become aware of the atrocities that are taking place outside of our internal bubble. We would find that people (right now in this very moment) are being hurt in ways we cannot begin to imagine and lives are being exploited in ways that would disgust us. We would wonder how something so terrible could possibly take place. Our hearts would break for the women, men, and children whose lives are being destroyed by the unimaginable acts of others.We would find that the worst crime in the world is taking place and far too little is being done about it. We would be outraged. Then possibly overwhelmed. Then we might feel very small, like our impact couldn’t possibly make a dent in the growing mound of pain taking place in the world. We might feel hopeless. We might stop there. We might be silent.
Or we might not…
What if we spoke up?
If we spoke up: Despite any fear, hesitancy, or reluctancy, we must say something. Our silence leaves space. It leaves space for injustice to roar. It leaves space for the world’s problems to persist. It leaves space for people to continue hurting in unthinkable ways. Our silence says that we don’t care. We must believe that our silence contributes to these global tragedies.We must stop being silent and fill the space. Even the faintest of whispers breaks the silence. A single voice breaks the silence. If we spoke up, we could build awareness, helping others to know, helping others to listen, and helping others to know how to speak up too. We could create conversation about the terrible things that are taking place around the world, and we could create conversations about the beautiful stories of resilience and compassion that exist despite such horrors. We could collaborate about who, how, and where to help. We could make a difference.
What if we loved?
If we loved: Once we know and listen and speak, we might find ourselves motivated to act. We find ourselves wanting to do something. And these issues might seem overwhelmingly large, far off, or distant. However, I think the answer here is to love. To love where you are, who you are with, with what you have. If we loved, we would begin to chip away at that overwhelming mound of bad stuff going on in the world. Far too often we underestimate the power of loving one another. Despite differences, despite fear, despite circumstance, we can show love to each other. If we dedicate each day to filling the world with more love, that love will spread. Love is never stagnant- it moves, works, and multiples.
.know. listen. speak. love.