Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who will Watch Out for the Widows?

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” I Kings 8:9-10

This essay is adapted from my Sunday sermon preached June 10, 2007.

I always find it interesting how God's call moves from the general to the particular. In this case, God is calling the prophet Elijah to go to Sidon, a dangerous place for Jews in enemy territory. And in Sidon, go to a village called Zarephath that nobody ever heard of where there are no important people and no media cameras. But then God gets quite particular...a widow there.

How odd to focus on a foreign, unnamed nobody of a woman. With all the politicians and talk about comprehensive immigration reform these days, with all the political rhetoric around the war in Iraq... but we never hear how these things affect a nameless widow from an unknown village in enemy territory. How much would we really know about widows and mothers in Guatemala if it wasn't for DR's missionary work there? How many of you have heard about the tens of thousands of new Iraqi widows who are now forced to turn to prostitution to support their children? You're not going to hear about it on your evening news. It's in the Bible that we hear about the daily struggles of unnamed widows and their children who just happen to live in enemy (whose enemy?) territory.

For purposes of this essay, I want to focus on the plight of Iraqi widows, tens of thousands of widows that we are creating every day that our occupation of their land continues. Please - PLEASE - click on the links, read the articles, get angry, and then do something.

For stats on Iraqi refugees go to the UNHRC website. They estimate as many as 2 million Iraqis have left their country since the war began and another 1.7 million have moved within Iraq as a result of increased sectarian violence. As The Ground Truth in Iraq notes, a high proportion of these are female-headed households and unaccompanied women. With Iraqi men being killed off and kidnapped at alarming rates, many women find themselves not only refugees dealing with unimaginable losses, but also seeking work outside the home for the first time in countries with already high unemployment. In Syria alone, thousands of these women are smuggled, tricked or forced into prostitution. Some just have no other means of supporting their families. Salon wrote about teenage prostitutes (and I shamelessly lifted the pic below from their story). The NYTimes covered this recently. If you can't get past their firewall, Sexual Terrorism.Org has excerpts.

Sexual Terrorism.Org also reminds us that rape and war go hand-in-hand. It is perhaps the cruelest irony of Bushco's illegal and immoral invasion that life was suppose to get better for Iraqi women. But as the Guardian reported last month, the reality has been rocketing rates of rape, murder, domestic violence and infant mortality. See the other "benefits" liberation has brought to Iraqi women at V-Day and read about so-called honor killings at The Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq. If you don't click on any other links, please check out V-Day and OWFI.

And how has Bushco responded to this crisis? The headlines say it all. Iraqi Refugees Not Welcome in U.S. Iraqi Refugees Find No Haven in US. Maybe a reader with a mind for math can tell me what perpcentage 701 is of 2,000,000. Oh wait, make that 7,000.

Yesterday the Washington Post decried the administration's failed attempts to address their responsibility (although rather weakly). They did note that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has introduced legislation to help more Iraqi refugees. Of course, only one rep from the war party has signed on as a co-sponsor (Christopher Shays of Conn.).

Please contact your reps. and sens. and ask them if they believe the prostitution of Iraqi women and girls is acceptable. Tell them that U.S. policy on Iraqi refugees makes us a silent partner with the pimps. Tell them 701 out of 2,000,000 is a pitiful drop in the bucket.

Contact all of those God fearing presidential candidates and ask them what Jesus would do about refugees forced to prostitute themselves to feed their children. And just in case they're not sure what Jesus would do, you can remind them:
Mark 12:38-40 Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

Luke 18:3-5 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, "Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, "Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming. (Hey, it's the least comfy established Washington can do.)

Isaiah 10:1-4 1 Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? (Oh, if Fred Phelps was as concerned about this wickedness.)
Finally, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq has established two Women’s Shelters in Iraq as a first appropriate step to defend women’s rights and protect them against all kinds of degradation, abuse, and violence including the random killing of women. These shelters, which are safe havens for women in Iraq, are a crucial tool and an endeavor to fight the oppression against women and violation of their rights. They will be humanist and progressive symbols in the society, their priority is to protect women’s dignity. Read about the shelters here and give them some love here.

The UN World Refugee Day is June 20th. Please act now to shine the spotlight on what Ground Truth is calling the worst humanitarian disaster in the Middle East in 60 years.

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