To my left is a bulletin board. It is covered in pictures and letters, things that remind me of people and places that have left a mark on my heart. To my right is a long line of books: commentaries and devotions and two Bibles, mine and my husband’s. A globe sits next to them, sturdy enough to act as a bookend, and a constant reminder that my place in this world is so, so small. And in the rooms around me my babies are sleeping. They are warm, comfortable, safe. They will wake up to the promise of food and the pleasure of a little PBS Kids. We will read books, play games, say I’m sorry a dozen times, and learn—we are all always learning around here. And tomorrow will be a lot like today: lessons, friends, and my constant effort to provide all they need, to show up for them.
In the last ten years, the world has become an increasingly violent place. So many of us know that, but we don’t lean in further, because that is when it gets too hard. And we have a tendency to shield from view the things that are too hard to see: the difficult to love person we pretend we didn’t notice at the grocery store, the homeless man on the corner we avoid eye contact with, the women working the street in our city that we drive right past… the refugees trapped on a mountain, Aylan, the women assaulted in Cologne, the violence of the Democratic Republic of Congo…It’s too hard sometimes, all of it. So we pretend we don’t even see it.
Life is so much easier when we choose what we see.
But we cannot keep living that way, the easy way. There is a need too great to ignore. There are too many vulnerable faces looking to us, begging us to see them. And the majority of these vulnerable faces are also the ones who will be a huge part of the solution to the violence in the end: the women.
Around the world, women in conflict zones are without question the most exploited group, but they are also the strongest. They’ve been brutally raped in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and the DRC, and then they find a way to get water for their babies the next day. They are threatened, but commit their lives to being peacemakers. They are taken advantage of as they sell their produce and goods, but they show up at the market the next day to try again. In the face of violence, sexual exploitation, pain, and fear, they fight back for their children and for their communities.
The UN Force Commander, Major General Patrick Cammaert, has said that, “It is possibly more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in conflicts today.” Devastating. There is no other word for a statement like that. And we can choose our response to it. We can choose to put the plight of our sisters around the world in front of us and see them. I’ve said this before, but I believe it with all of my heart: when we ask the question, “What can we do?” the answer is never, ever, nothing.
Friends, we can always do something.
And you knew I had an idea coming atcha, right?
One Million Thumbprints is a grassroots campaign seeking to catalyze a groundswell of people (y’all, that’s us!) focused on overcoming the effects of war against women through storytelling, advocacy, and fundraising. As an organization, they are advocating on a global level, urging the UN and other government leaders to follow through on resolutions to protect women in conflict zones, as well as funding programs on a local level through their implementing partners in three of the most dangerous places to be a woman: the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the region of Iraq and Syria.
The mission of OMT is three-fold: survive, stabilize, and sustain—providing emergency relief to women and families in war zones, which includes providing rape or sexual violence treatment, trauma assistance and medical support; including women in the peace-building process by training female leaders to mediate in their communities; and supporting long-term programs such as community micro-savings, microfinance, farming co-ops, agribusiness, refugee resettlement and education.*
And where we come in (you knew this was coming): our voice and our money. Gather your friends, get your thumb kit here, and start talking about the violence and oppression women around the world are living under every day. Each time OMT collects 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 or more thumbprints they will share them with the UN Secretary General and other important policy makers. These thumbprints are our way of saying WE SEE YOU, SISTERS, and now we are going to speak up for you.
And these women need our resources, too. Let’s not skip over that. I think many of us live with the mentality that our dollars won’t really make a difference. And that’s a lie, because not only does every single penny make a difference, it also reminds us where to look; our eyes tend to follow the places we give our money. Can we look past our lattes, our lunches out, our new shoes and our Amazon purchases and straight into the eyes of the women who need us to act? They don’t need our sympathy. They don’t need our advice. These are women more capable than most in so many ways. But friends, they need us to act. Please, don’t let yourself think that they don’t.
My friend, Krista, is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with One Million Thumbprints on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2016) to promote grassroots peace for the women who experience violence in war. Would you give this cause your latte money today? Would you skip the Target trip you were going to make and support this amazing team’s effort to say “no more” to the painful injustices committed against women?
Will we all do something? Because we can.
The answer is never “we can’t.”
Let’s see them, these strong and resilient women who, even though they have lived through the most devastating things imaginable, are choosing to believe peace is possible for their families. Let’s teach our young girls that our most noble heroes won’t ever be found as the popular searches on instagram or in the press of Hollywood but in the villages of the South Sudan or bravely fleeing the terrorism of Syria, women and mamas and grandmas giving of themselves without reserve. Let’s keep the right things on our minds, let’s tell the most worthy stories with our words, and let’s see the pain of these beautiful souls—because when we see, we can do.
As I look again at all that is right around me, the pictures of my people, the resources to know and study God’s beautiful word, the globe—ever so fitting in moments like this— I am reminded of all the people who need me right here in my home, and all the ways I need a Savior. But I cannot help but think about my sisters around the world, like me in so many ways, but unlike me in others: on the floor around them their babies are sleeping, but they may not be warm, safe, or comfortable. They may not wake up to the promise of food or the pleasure of anything. They will read, play games, say I’m sorry a dozen times, and learn—because mamas and babies everywhere are always learning, aren’t we? But tomorrow may not be anything like today, because a life of security is not offered to them the same way it is to us.
But these women will show up bravely. Every day that they are given, they will show up.
So let’s show up for them.
*click on links in the post for more information or to donate to OMT through Krista Gilbert's page. If everyone gave even $5, OMT would be on their way to helping create peace where it is desperately needed.