February 13, 2011 / Praxis
An interview between TOJ Editor-in-Chief Chris Keller and the author of GENERATION EX-CHRISTIAN, Drew Dyck.
August 8, 2005
The softest whisper carries great power. I’ll never forget the way my Grandmother used to draw me close to her, place her mouth up against my ear and whisper in her delicate voice: “Reagan, you are my very favorite.” Year after year, over and over again, the power of her whisper was transforming. That simple phrase rescued me from innumerable moments of insecurity following unpleasant interactions with the school bully or hitless tee ball games. The softest utterance can convey a message with more strength and vigor than the most deafening acclamation.
Our God whispers. Despite His omnipotence, God’s presence is not always announced by writing in the clouds or thunder from the sky. Indeed, God’s presence before Elijah was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire – but in the “gentle whisper” that followed. God constantly whispers words of encouragement, statements of reassurance and gentle phrases of caution and rebuke to his children.
Today, our God is witness to a world of paralyzing injustice, and He is astonished and appalled at what He sees. Isaiah 59 tells us that “the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede.” God must still be astonished today. Humanity said “never again” after the Holocaust, but turned its back on Rwanda while more than 800,000 people lost their lives by the sharp edge of a machete and blunt surface of a club. Our inaction – our failure to intercede – astonishes the Maker of the universe.
Take the Risk of Change
An astonished God is whispering in our ears today, and He is asking us to do nothing less than change the world – one at a time. He calls men and women of vision, faith and integrity to make conscious decisions to ignore the naysayers, listen to the whispers of God and embrace the risks of change.
And that is the gentle call of God’s whisper: That we change the world – one world at a time.
Semira* is a shy, quiet eight-year-old girl in Kibera, Kenya, who often speaks in a whisper – unless one can coax her to sing. Kibera is one of the largest and most densely packed slums on earth. One December morning, Semira’s alcoholic mother took her to a dilapidated health clinic where she was asked to remove her clothes, lie down, and spread her legs. The owner of the clinic then pulled out a pair of scissors and cut her.
Under the edge of crude instruments and without anesthetic, Semira joined the estimated 130 million girls around the globe who have suffered the indignity of female genital mutilation – or FGM – a practice designed to transition young girls into womanhood by cutting away all or part of their genitals. An estimated two million girls are subjected to FGM each year and medical evidence tells us that the practice leads to devastating physical and psychological complications for women. Despite the brutal nature of FGM, the procedure is still widely practiced in 28 African countries, mostly on girls between four and 14 years old.
God’s Whisper to the Oppressed
The whisper of God reaches the ears of the oppressed and abused, replacing the sound of sorrow with exhortations of encouragement. He conveyed words of comfort to Semira during her harrowing ordeal and I have no doubt that He is appalled at the practice of FGM upon girls like Semira. The Kenyan parliament outlawed FGM three years ago, but in the words of Cervantes, “Laws go as Kings like.” As a result, the law is not widely enforced and enterprising criminals still take advantage of young girls for profit. Shoddy “health clinics” in slums across Kenya thumb their noses at the law, boldly advertising on their plywood facades: “Female circumcision performed here.”
International Justice Mission (IJM) Kenyan lawyers took on Semira’s case, interviewing witnesses and capturing undercover video of the clinic owner offering to perform the service on other young girls. With the help of IJM Kenya’s investigators, police officials tracked down the clinic owner and arrested her. She has been charged under the FGM law and will face trial for cutting young girls.
Semira’s world has changed because she knows that the Kenyan justice system is not oblivious to the illegal sexual disfigurement of young girls. In fact, Kenyan police have approached IJM in Kenya and asked us to collaborate with them in strategically targeting the health clinics that egregiously violate the FGM law.
Semira’s voice is now amplified across Kenya. She courageously appeared on Kenyan national television to tell her story – the story of so many other girls without a voice. Her story of justice spoke volumes, both to those still in the business of scarring girls for profit and to those who have suffered the injustice of FGM.
Surely God aches to comfort children, women, and men around the world who are suffering like Semira. And surely He wants to use you and me as His instruments to whisper this courage and hope. By changing one person’s world we can make a world of change. Through this individual change comes structural change. By working with governments to build the capacity of faltering justice systems, we help create indigenous models that actually work to protect vulnerable individuals like Semira
A Congolese proverb says, ‘Great power is adequate for a hard task.’ Bringing justice to Semira was a hard task, but each of us possesses great power – the power of our resources, the power of our hope, and the power of our prayers. This is the tremendous power that will truly allow us to, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “become the change we want to see in the world.”
And when His good work through us is done in this world, our Lord will draw us near to Him and whisper softly in our ears: “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”
Reagan R. Demas - International Justice Mission
Reagan Demas serves as the Director of Operations, Africa for International Justice Mission. IJM is an international human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression. Based on referrals from relief and development agencies around the world, IJM conducts professional investigations of abuses and mobilizes intervention on behalf of the victims.