Pondering Peace

Religion News Service recently published my article about college activism against human trafficking, which I wrote for my religion reporting class this semester.

The article begins with a brief personal story from a woman who was trafficked as a teenager:

For two years of her life, Louise Allison says she looked and felt like trash. She was a straggly-haired teenager sold for sex on Dallas streets. Her traffickers often drugged her and dumped her in a park to await customers.

Allison is one of millions of people who have been trafficked—or sold into slavery—for underage sex or forced labor. Now she directs Partners Against Trafficking Humans, a Little Rock, Ark.-based Christian nonprofit that is starting safe houses for human trafficking survivors.

Read the rest of the piece on ReligionNews.com.

Also check out the sidebar about ‘slacktivism’ and professionalizing human trafficking activism.

I haven’t been updating Tumblr recently, but on Good Friday I published this reflection in Huffington Post Religion about the crucifixion and the Rwandan genocide.

A quick preview:

I don’t know what Good Friday felt like for Jesus’ followers, but I imagine there must have been a profound sense of evil, a terrible fear that the Devil had spilled sacred blood and won — just as Rwandans must have felt when genocide struck.

Read the rest of the reflection.

We need to find God, and [God] cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. … We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa, Total Surrender

Here in Columbia, Missouri, I’ve been following activist and preacher Lorenzo Lawson, who’s working to bridge the racial divide. Christianity Today published my profile about him today:

On his weekly “Straight Talk” radio show in Columbia, Missouri, Lorenzo Lawson isn’t afraid to ask tough questions. This time, Lawson and his co-host have the superintendent of Columbia Public Schools on the air at KOPN 89.5 FM.

"What are we doing about the high-school dropouts, especially when it comes to African American males?" Lawson says on the January show. "What’s the plan for that?"

It’s an issue close to Lawson’s heart. A black community activist, he attended Columbia Public Schools during and after segregation before dropping out of high school himself. Now, the criminal-turned-preacher can be found at city council and school board meetings, helping to ensure the voice of the African American poor is heard.

Read the rest of the story at ChristianityToday.com/ThisIsOurCity.

How do you interpret a neighborhood?… How do you interpret Scripture? Most of us have been taught to look at a text in context. The passage may communicate powerfully… by itself, but it usually helps us to relate it to the chapter and the book… to know something about who wrote it and when and why. We need to apply the same principle to our neighborhood. We can regard it as a specific text, or we can work to find out what makes the city tick and how that affects our community.
Ray Bakke, The Urban Christian (via docfuder)

Update: Since I wrote about the Rwanda’s rise in Protestant Christian faith in the December 2011 issue of Christianity Today, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released new numbers.

You’ll find that about 43.4 percent of Rwandans are Protestant Christian, up from the 38 percent of the earlier Pew Foundation survey that the article cited.

I went up on a motel rooftop on Chicago’s Southside to talk to Pastor Corey Brooks a few weeks ago. Check out my UrbanFaith Q&A with Pastor Brooks to find out why he’s been up there since November.

"I think the inner-city churches of America need a serious revival in order for neighborhoods to change," Brooks said.

Read the rest at UrbanFaith.com.

My most recent UrbanFaith reflection on the Rwandan genocide:

Five months after being immersed in the study of the Rwandan genocide, I still don’t know what to say about it.

I went to Rwanda last summer as part of a study abroad program with my university. I visited genocide memorials and saw the remains of victims, heard the testimonies of survivors and watched Rwandans passionately cry out to God in churches.

By the time I got back, my brain was overloaded with stories of genocide — images of machetes, babies slammed against walls, people hiding in cramped spaces praying they wouldn’t be found.

To try to put these stories into words, when I know that any attempt I make could only trivialize what Rwandans experienced, is not possible. It’s a story that cannot be shared lightly, when someone casually asks what Rwanda was like over small talk at lunch. But Rwanda holds a story that must be told—a warning against the dangers of racist stereotypes and propaganda, and proof that a country that has been through devastation can rise again.

Read the rest at UrbanFaith.com.

Commenters on my Christianity Today article about Pentecostal and charismatic renewal in Rwanda are saying that America needs a revival like the one that happened in post-genocide Rwanda. What do you think?

Pastor Dan Muhire can’t forget how his Aunt Anizia withered away long before she died at age 50. She survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but her husband and five sons were murdered. Anizia recovered physically after the government replaced the house she had lost. But inside, she still suffered.

"Someone would come to greet her and she would say, ‘Why are you greeting me? They have killed my children. Is there hope for me?’" Muhire recalled.

"She would walk aimlessly without knowing where she was going, and then come back in the night." As Muhire spoke at the Worship Center Church in Kigali, voices in the next room cried out to God in the native language of Kinyarwanda. Their singing, clapping, and drumming seemed to strengthen Muhire’s resolve.

"We need to give people [hope] to live today by showing them there is life tomorrow. My auntie died because there was no sense of living again."

The Worship Center Church is one of a multitude of new, independent Pentecostal and charismatic churches throughout Rwanda. Most of them have sprung up since 1994. Recovery from trauma is a central feature of these new fellowships.

Read the rest at ChristianityToday.com.