Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Role Beyond Solidarity?

Joe and I had coffee sometime the month before Ben and I left Denver. Sipping on something fair trade, Joe said that as outsiders wanting to “help” groups that are suffering from war, injustice and poverty—really the only thing we have to offer is solidarity. I found that idea sobering. Solidarity is significant—the importance of it shouldn’t be downplayed. It has deep spiritual roots—we should mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who are celebrating. Maybe our contribution is tied to our dear Prof. PVA’s notion of “witness.” Or to what I shared with the students in Azerbaijan volunteering in deplorable orphanages—there is value in crying over children who have never had anyone to cry for them before. Or maybe it’s related to what Mark and I talked about in the ILLC’s kitchen when he was discouraged about Lebanon—there is a spark that can lead to empowerment when an outsider shows hope/energy/optimism to an insider too beaten down by years of oppression to remember the strength of his/her own spirit.

In the reading I’ve done so far about Uganda several key characteristics that are either sources or results of the conflict stand out: fear, mistrust, desensitization/normalization of violence(that drives the night commuters, that keeps the land uncultivated, that makes children kill, that keeps Kony from negotiating, child soldiers from returning, communities from accepting back the abducted…) . The results are too many to mention. And I’ve only read about them. I haven’t seen them yet. As someone who wants to be an active agent for positive social change in Uganda I hope that in addition to solidarity I can offer the opposite of fear, mistrust, and desensitization: hope, trust, and a profound respect for human life. God help me.


Esley said...

Good luck Holly, the ILLC loves you and thinks about you often :)

Dru said...

I agree that solidarity is a substantial part of your role. We are excited and hopeful for you! -violinist

Nickie said...

Solidarity is a beautiful thing to offer. And your love for people is another beautiful thing. They are so blessed to have you. In some ways, like you said earlier, you are an appetiser. God will ahve to supply the main course. And in a way that is good. Because when you are weak, and know your inadequecy, then you are strong and better able to trust God. I hope this doesn't sound like a pre-packaged Christian answer. But it is so true. You bring a BIG God with you. You are not alone. I love you, Nickie

Holly & Ben Porter said...

I think you're right Nickie. Knowledge and acceptance of the fact that you are an appetizer is a good place to live. During training we did some reflection on the MCC mission statement--which we obviously identify with or we wouldn't have chosen to work with MCC. On a Sunday months ago Steve talked about writing a mission statement for our lives. I tried to write one that day after church and I felt silly because no matter how I played with the words it kept sounding like it boiled down to the same thing MCC already wrote.

"MCC seeks to demonstrate God's love by working among people suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression and natural disaster.

MCC serves as a channel of interchange by building relationships that are mutually transformative.

MCC strives for peace, justice and dignity of all people by sharing our experiences, resources and faith in Jesus Christ."

You could boil those 3 aims down even more.


Mutual transformation.

Value added.

I feel relatively confident I can live among people--solidarity. And relatively confident I will build relationships with people that will change me and hopefully them--mutual transformation. It's the value added part that sometimes gives me pause. I think it's because my experiences and resources (and even faith) seem so limited--even trite in view of such suffering and grievous affront to the dignity of human life. And that's where Ben's metaphor describes how we both feel--like an appetizer.