“And all the suffering that you’ve witnessed and the handprints on the wall, they remind you how it’s endless, how endlessly you fall. And then the answer that you’re seeking for the question that you’ve found, drives you further to confusion as you lose your sense of ground.”
Why does this drive us to confusion? Why do we get so frustrated when we can’t find answers, or don’t understand what is happening. After all, how many people actually do have answers; or understand the suffering; or can bear the pain day after day, year after year?
The beauty of humanity is the variety of worldviews, beliefs, and thought processes. (Whereas this can be frustrating when trying to communicate with someone who clearly is not on your “wavelength” these differences are a truth, a scientific law if you will.) And if we are all exercising the capability of thought, than we can present our differing views of the endless suffering and present personal attempts at answers and have enlightening discussions with one another on ways of surviving the confusion.
Basic human rights are frequently discussed in the academic and development aid world, often with words like “God-given right”. However, the only right actually given to man by God (according to Biblical records) is the right to choose. Initially given to choose which God you will follow (Joshua 24:15), this right boils down to the right of free will. You have the power to decide. Decide how you feel about a situation. Decide how you will react to the people around you. Decide what class to take, what program to participate in, what job to take, whom to marry, what food to eat. You do it. You decide. For yourself.
This past week I attended a healing and reconciliation workshop that As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative (AWFRI) conducted in a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Kigali. These workshops are what define the work of AWFRI. The two men that comprise AWFRI write up their lesson plan and then teach whoever decides to show up for the three-day workshop. Lessons include reconstructing views on the definition of humans (humans being their personal character, which is influenced by personal history, rather than the words others use to define him or her) and accepting personal responsibility in-order to achieve forgiveness, reconciliation (with self and with others) and improvement in living conditions.
Such concepts are vital for a traumatized country to even think about healing. A country comprised primarily of illiterate men and women who work each day to merely survive are incredibly vulnerable to the ideas and words of leaders, and particularly of foreigners. This power is both awesome when applied to the lessons taught at the AWFRI workshops and unbelievably damaging when in the hands of emotional religious leaders (or angry local leaders—as seen by the power of radio shows in bringing about the genocide here). Given that the Pentecostal Church is the fastest growing church in both Africa and Latin America, it is not unlikely that masses of traumatized, vulnerable people are hearing messages that attribute poverty and HIV to sacrifices made to ancient, local gods, and the necessity of paying money (offering) to the local Christian church in-order to atone for those past sacrifices made to local gods.
I am everyday convinced that the only solution to development issues, or conflict reconciliation, or improving the standards of living—anywhere in the world—is education. Not an education that provides an understanding of English letters and basic arithmetic, but an education that encourages freethinking. It is essential that children learn how to think for themselves, so they have the ability to decide for themselves what paths will serve their interests.
So when you come up against a suffering, a pain, a question that seems unbearable, exercise that one God-given right of yours to make a decision. Forget whether it is right or wrong, just make the decision. The consequence will come and then you make a subsequent decision of how to react to this new question/suffering. Be confident in the fact that you have a logic-based education. You learned how to think. You are not vulnerable to whatever lesson may be thrown at you by your local pastor/leader/government official.