Congo Journal 6

It is early in the morning. Memorial Day 2012.

I confess to the thoughtlessness with which I have typically celebrated this last Monday of May. On this day of remembrance, I have planned picnics and hosted parties and poured pitchers of lemonade. I have recruited helpers to grill burgers. I have made introductions, trusting that during the course of a leisurely afternoon, strangers would become friends. I have snuggled babies and chased toddlers and chatted with young moms and dads. I’ve enjoyed the extraordinary blessing of family and friends.

But rarely have I taken the time to remember.

Memorial Day—formerly known as Decoration Day—was initiated after the Civil War to honor fallen Union soldiers. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the focus of Memorial Day had expanded to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

Each year as this day approaches, journalists write the stories of heroes who went to war and did not come back. The fallen. Men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. This morning, up early, I read the words of one such story and think of the parents, the children, the spouses, the friends of soldiers for whom those words are not mere words, but daggers scraping the raw wounds of their grief. On their behalf, I remember those they mourn. Those who lived a reality I cannot even imagine and died so that I—and you—might never have to experience that reality. I am so very sorry for the grief many people bear because of the tragedy of so many wars.

I remember, too, on this Monday in May, what this ongoing Congo Journal won’t let me forget. That the vast majority of victims in current wars are civilians. And that those least empowered suffer most. Women. Children. The poor. It was true for the Bosnians Sherri described yesterday. It is true for the Congolese we will meet next week. It is true in Syria and in South Sudan and in countless places we seldom hear about on the nightly news.

Dear God, help us not forget those who suffer in ways most of us will never understand. Help us not neglect our calling to be peacemakers in a world that knows too little peace. Amen.