John Barr
By John Barr

Living with the threat of abuse, torture and death

July 10th, 2012

 

The horrific execution of a young woman in Afghanistan has again shocked the world. On charges of sexual misdemeanours, the young lady named Najiba, was shot dead by the Taliban. Images of this public execution were broadcast around the globe.

Tragically, Najiba’s brutal death is not new. This incident reminds me of the villagers who were tortured by the military in West Papua last year.  Najiba’s death also causes me to recall the conflict in Maluku, Eastern Indonesia, where, in an overcrowded refugee camp, I met with a man who had witnessed the rape and the murder of his daughter.  In Maluku there was also my encounter with a number of young women on island of Seram who had been captured by the Laskar Jihad and forcibly circumcised.

And then there is East Timor. Images of the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili rocked the world some 21 years ago. Here more than 270 Timorese were gunned down by security forces. I remember visiting the cemetery a few years later and hearing stories from the grave diggers who witnessed the bloodshed. It was brutal, senseless killing.

Najiba represents the plight of millions of voiceless people around the world today who are victims of the brutality and ruthless power of others.

Here, North Korea especially troubles me. The situation is very much concerns what we do not know. In this isolated place fear, secrecy and silence clouds every situation. Ordinary people are hungry, they are sick and are under very heavy scrutiny. People simply disappear.

Uniting Church partner churches around the world live with these realities every day. Threats of abuse,  torture and death are all too common. Next week during the 13th Uniting Church Assembly in Adelaide, we will hear many stories from these partners.

Our partners in the Philippines will share stories about the many extrajudicial killings and the constant targeting of human rights workers in the region. Friends from India will refer to the ongoing exploitation of dalits and tribals while our West Papua delegates will plead for the plight of indigenous Papuans.

The good news is that our partner churches are engaged as advocates for the voiceless. Our partner churches constantly reach out to the poor, the vulnerable and the exploited.

And the Uniting Church is there for them. Solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the world is integral to who we are and to what we do. 

 

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