Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Holy Innocents: Million of children die in warfare and we can do something about it

Memorials to the dead in Libya including children
Photo by CIVIC
“Blessed are all 
who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2:11b

The Christian calendar today holds grimmest of markers for the year: The Feast of the Holy Innocents.

It is the day we remember that King Herod murdered all of the first born boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus, the one who the Magi had told him would grow up to be a king. Jesus and his family escaped, but the carnage and anguish in Bethlehem was great.

It does not sound like much of an occasion for feasting.

There is perhaps some consolation in the fact that it didn’t happen, at least not this way. The Gospel writer of Matthew came up with this story as a literary device to render Jesus into the “new Moses” by having the Holy Family flee to Egypt so that Jesus could emerge like Moses in a “new Passover.”

No other gospel writer – no other historian – says that Herod slaughtered all of the babies in Bethlehem to kill Jesus. Indeed, the gospel writer of Luke – the only other account of Jesus’ birth – has the Holy family returning in short order from Bethlehem to Nazareth, where Jesus grows up in relative safety and calm. In Luke, there are no innocent babies killed and no terrifying trips back and forth from Egypt.

What then to make of the Holy Innocents? Should we ignore it?


What comes to mind is that the world is full of Holy Innocents – children who are killed or maimed in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, Somalia – and children are still murdered in the Holy Land. The children die as pawns of the powerful. Children die in Gaza and the West Bank and Bethlehem all too frequently because the adults are at war. We don’t need a King Herod to feel shame for the deaths of millions of innocent children in our world.

But we can do something.

For several years I have been supporting the work of CIVICThe Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, an organization that documents the plight and advocates for refugees and victims caught in the cross-fire of the world’s conflicts. Its purpose:
“Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict works on behalf of war victims by advocating that warring parties recognize and help the civilians they harm. CIVIC supports the principle that it is never acceptable for a warring party to ignore civilian suffering.”
Marla, right, with a family in Iraq
shortly before she was killed
CIVIC was founded by a very brave young woman, Marla Ruzicka, from Lakeport, California, who in the months after 9/11 went to the frontlines herself to document what she saw, and then bring that information to the doorstep of decision-makers in Washington.

Marla was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005. She was only 24.

It was my privilege to say prayers for her in the California Senate after she died, and I can tell you some very hardened politicians shed tears that day.

CIVIC has not only continued her work, but expanded it, going to Libya, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Lebanon and Israel. CIVIC works on a shoestring budget but it has had a huge impact by getting Congress to allocate funds to compensate war victims in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bringing the stories of real people caught in warfare to the media.

CIVIC has gone everywhere it can go, working with officials from the United Nations, and with governments in Israel and Lebanon, Russia and Georgia, and everywhere there is warfare. To read a summary of CIVIC’s accomplishments, click HERE.

I know that all of us are inundated this time of year with appeals for funds. But what better way to remember the Holy Innocents than by giving to CIVIC? I will be giving today as my devotion to this Holy day. Please join me. You can make a donation to CIVIC by clicking HERE.

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