I find myself sitting in the dark, my mind spinning almost as fast as the pictures on the screen. Christmas parties and Santa hats, beautiful carols and rolls of ribbon interlaced with the sound of grandmothers wailing, last goodbyes, emergency appeals and photos of frozen children too shocking for publication.
This week we launched an emergency appeal with the DEC for the Worst Humanitarian Crisis In The World in Yemen, its people without food or water or shelter telling the wounds of a brutal conflict. The crisis could only be overshadowed by another: this time, Aleppo. A word not many of us had heard before Omran Daqneesh fronted our newspapers, his bruised little legs outstretched at the back of an ambulance he stared blankly out of.
And then, housed by millions of fairy light bulbs and bulging cash tills, a holy utterance:
Rebellions are built on hope.
We want strategy. I want strategy. I did a Strength Finders test this week: ‘Strategic’ is my ‘top strength’. Top need, I think. And I think it’s probably yours, right now, too. We want to know what can we do? Give us something. Give us something that will make the Last Goodbyes disappear from our Twitter timelines, and something that will make the carols sound less empty. We want strategy. I laugh as I type this because there is no strategy here. And then I weep because there is no strategy here.
There is sweat and tears. Bloody tears. Bloody bodies. Dusty bodies. Dust… to dust. Is that what this is?
Peace on earth, goodwill to (some) men.
What about the others? Those whose truth is beyond what even the darkest corner of my imagination can offer. Imagine? I can’t do it. I won’t do it. Selfishly I don’t dare. It’s too much. And also not enough. What good does imagining do? What good can I do at all? What can I do?
Rebellions are built on hope.
Rebel: that’s what we have to do, friend. We know hope. Tolkien and the Bible and the Hunger Games and CS Lewis and Harry and Lucy and all the others, they’ve taught us about hope. And now we need rebellion.
Rebellion: an act of open resistance, a refusal of obedience.
We must rebel. We must resist. We must refuse. Resist the tide of oppression and violence and fear. Refuse the ignorance and complacency, the hate, the lies. We will not accept the things that shake us to the core. We will not ignore that burning voice that tells us this is not right. We will not be soothed by consumerism. We will not be distracted by the superficial attractions of the season. We will not be silenced by abused power.
We will gather our troops and households and all the strength we have left, and we will rebel. We will be living vessels of resistance: we will do the opposite. We will provide an alternative. We will change the tide.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
St Francis of Assisi
This is how we will rebel. This is what we will do.
We will sow love. In our homes and our classrooms and our relationships and with our neighbours. We will make safe spaces and welcome the stranger.We will stop asking who our neighbour is and remember that we all bleed the same blood when we are hurt. We will bind up the wounds of those who are with the clothes off our backs. We will forgive others as we seek their forgiveness, too: I’m sorry for my ignorance, my inaction, my selfish privilege. We will do our best to protect the flame of faith, weak as its flickers may seem. We will guard hope with our lives and remind each other of its beauty when we have forgotten. We will remember better days and imagine brighter years. We will light candles and smiles, we will use wisdom and grace to illuminate the path before us. We will know that joy is not a superficial kind of feeling but something that is cultivated deep within our souls and we will seek to share that with those whose tears are heavy while honouring their pain. We will sign petitions and demand that our leaders and our countries take action. We will roll up our sleeves and we will give sacrificially. We will remember even when the news has forgotten. We will be here in ten, twenty, fifty years’ time.
I. Friends, we can’t go to Yemen and Aleppo and everywhere else. Though our arms ache at the inaction if it all, there are people already there who need our support. The most heroic thing we can do is give to them. Tearfund works in the places of most need, and is often the only agency on the ground. We work with local people and networks, caring for the whole person. And we’re in it for the longest-haul: when the precious civilians finally stumble out of those damned ruins, they will still need our help. Support Tearfund now.
II. My prayers have become confused, mainly silence with tentative words that seem to evaporate when they leave my lips. My colleague, a frontline worker in the Middle East, shared this beautifully honest piece about not knowing how to pray for her region: and how she is praying now.
III. There are reasons why there is so much suffering happening in the world right now. We need to find them. Desmond Tutu says it best: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. we need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Go upstream, if you dare. Ask why there is such violence, hate, brutality. Ask why people are vulnerable, forgotten, numbers on a page. Ask why we don’t read about them. And when you find the roots? Get to work. Change culture. Lobby for better legislation. Demand stronger leadership. Challenge hate when you see it. Model a different way. Start in your own heart.
“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous.” President Snow
Here’s to the rebellion. Here’s to dangerous hope.