BY JONATHAN GILBERT, QUEEN CREEK, AZ, USA - Life has a funny way of unfolding for me. I’m a ponderer, a thinker, a contemplator, a dreamer. Ever since I was little I’ve been out learning about the world I live in. Most of the things I’ve done, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, have all been fascinating moments in my life. I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of being surrounded by ordinary, yet remarkable people.
Inside of me, there is always this burning “something” that continually surfaces whenever my mind is brought to ponder on issues that happen “outside” my world. Events like Afghanistan, or Iraq. But never has the yearning for me to do “something” that would contribute to my outside world ever been as strong as the continuing feelings I have for Africa.
Lately, two movies have stirred my senses again – THE INTERPRETER and HOTEL RWANDA. Call it a coincidence, (I think not) but my wife and I recently rented these two movies without knowing anything about them beforehand. I won’t go into The Interpreter, other than to say it was an interesting movie that portrayed the African government as the way we Americans continue to see it – negative and corrupt. (I realize that some of this is true). Hotel Rwanda, however, still has me stunned even after a week from having watched it.
In 1994, nearly one million Africans were slaughtered. Where were you in 1994? I know where I was. I was serving a mission in Montana. During that time in my life we never really paid attention to the news. If we got any news, it would come from the people we’d speak with every day. But why was there never any talk of Rwanda? What happened there? I don’t wish to dishonor any of those who died in the recent 911 attacks, but I continually ask myself why so much attention was brought to a brutal attack that left close to 2800 dead in our country, yet in Africa, they lost almost one million, and to this day, it almost goes unspoken of? What was the difference? I have an opinion, but I won’t share it at this time.
I’m a white boy. Born and bred in the Great Lakes State of Michigan. I was five when I noticed some of the kids I was playing with didn’t have the same color of skin as me. I immediately went home and inquired of my mother about the differences. She explained to me in a child’s version that there are people in the world that have different colors of skin and that aside from color, the rest about us are the same. By the time I was in high school, five of my greatest friends were Black Americans. We hung out together every day.
What is my point in all of this? Zambia. What do I know about Zambia? I know nothing about Zambia. I care nothing about Zambia because I know nothing about Zambia. Rwanda? Nope. Don’t care. These Countries are “outside” my world. Why should I care about them? They are of no value to me. Or, are they?
In 1994, in Rwanda, the only way a person was guaranteed to stay alive was if they could prove with their paperwork that they were Hutu, or, if they had white skin. The rest, were brutally murdered. The killing went on for about 100 days. During which, governments in the rest of the world pulled out of the Country, stood by, and watched it happen. Why should I care about all of this? I’m an American. Those Countries mean nothing to me.
I’ll tell you why I care. My mother raised me better than that. My faith tells me other than that. I believe other than that. We are all of this same family on earth. Some of us are good brothers and sisters. Some of us, not so good. I believe I was born into this country, not by accident, but by Divine design. America is a choice land. We are so blessed with many resources and abundances of everything. What is required of us then? Should we sit and watch our brothers and sisters in another nation die just because they don’t have what we have? After all, they aren’t living in our home, so why should we care? I believe we should care because with the abundance we’ve received by the mere fact of being born into a land that has so much to offer, it is our duty to help and support others in distant lands who are in need.
Yes, I believe in God. And maybe you do too, or maybe you don’t. If you don’t, have you any faith in the good of mankind then? Nearly 1 million people murdered. Where are their voices now?
It occurred to me the other day that most of my correspondence in my business is on the internet. I converse with different people over forums here and there. What color skin to they have? Sometimes, I have no clue. But one thing I do know is that deep down inside of everyone of us there is a light. A light when turned on, brings out the inspiring beauty of the color we each so differently possess. It is this light that shines within those of whom I correspond with on the internet. The same light that helps us all to see the beauty of color in a world that would not be worth living in, if we could not see the contrast.
A small group of people are going to Zambia in July. Their goal is to help shine a little more light on a people with much color and beauty. What they may or may not be aware of at this time, is that they are not going to Zambia alone. There are over one million voices that will be joining them in this project, yearning to be heard. As a result of the filming that will come from this special group, our world will have the opportunity to learn that even though some of us think we have to power to hide, or rid ourselves from certain people, there is at least one thing that can never be destroyed – the color of a voice.