Eugene Cho

seeking justice: does it really matter?

Yesterday morning, I arrived at Q Cafe as I do on nearly every work morning to begin a new day. I ordered my usual Americano, sat in the corner of the cafe, and began to read through a few of my regular blogs before my schedule really kicked in.

I read numerous articles and blogs on my RSS feed and then, came across this article entitled, South Africa: Declare ‘Corrective Rape’ a Hate Crime, and…was so heartbroken and angry. No matter what one’s beliefs and theology may be, these acts are heinous and barbaric.

After a while, I just felt overwhelmed and crushed.

My sense of hope overwhelmed and crushed.

It’s not just because of this article but truth be told, sometimes, the world – including my own personal depravity – seems…dare I say it…unredeemable.

So…utterly depraved and apparently unredeemable…that I wonder to myself and now, out loud:

Does it really matter?

In the face of such evil and human cruelty, does getting signatures matters? In the face of nearly 900 million people not having access to clean water, does providing water to 9000 kids matter?

I know what I’m supposed to say:

“Yes, it matters…”

But yesterday, I just felt…hopeless. Like hopeless…in the sense…that I just wanted to go fishing and not come back. And to be honest, I had a difficult time even praying and believing and sensing how God has, is, and will restore all things back unto Himself.

Yes, I believe…but there are days, when I wonder about the “why’s” and “how’s” and “where are you, God.” And to be more bluntly, “What the @$%*?”

I tried to pray. I read some Scripture. And I read several pages from a Martin Luther King, Jr. book that I’m currently reading again and read this quote (again):

“When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

The painful truth is that the world is indeed utterly depraved. We are unredeemable on our own. We cannot save ourselves. We need a Savior and the good news is truly that while we were still living in rebellion, depravity, and sin, Jesus came to be our Savior.

Yes, Jesus came to be our Savior.

I believe in this good news. I live for this good news.  But goodness, there are days, I just wonder and have my questions. I believe that God in still sovereign over the affairs of the universe and that of humanity. And I believe that that even when I don’t see or certainly feel it, I believe that God is at work to reconcile, redeem, and restore all things as God intended. I believe that “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice…”

God, I believe….but help me in my unbelief.

You ever feel this way?

Take a few minutes to watch this. It’s very graphic and intense:

And here’s the article from change.org. Click it and sign the petition. You can also check out this article.

“Corrective Rape” is a term used to describe when a male rapes a lesbian with the aim of ‘turning’ her heterosexual!

This heinous crime is prolific in South Africa, especially in the “townships”.

Most of the victims are tortured, grievously assaulted and sometimes murdered! They are also prone to getting HIV/AIDS from the assault, and many of them commit suicide as a result of the “corrective rape”!

The South African government and justice system are failing the victims of Corrective Rape by letting the perpetrators out on ridiculously low bail, and taking literally years to bring the court-cases to a conclusion. In the meantime the victims have to live with seeing and being taunted and threatened by their rapists every day, as do those who help the victims!

In the last 10 years:
*31 lesbian women have been murdered because of their sexuality
*More than 10 lesbians a week are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone
*150 women are raped every day in South Africa
*For every 25 men accused of rape in South Africa, 24 walk free

Despite all this, hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are not recognised by South African law!

We call on the South African government to declare “Corrective Rape” a Hate-Crime that is punishable by the harshest sentences!

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20 Responses

  1. catesongbird says:

    Eugene,
    Yesterday I was expressing to a friend similar sentiments about… the depravity in the world and more specifically in my own heart, which reveals itself in unnoticeable and more apparent ways on a daily basis. I ask God the questions as well. I know he can handle our questions, but at times, I’m not sure if I can handle them. At the same time, I see how I am utterly desperate and hopeless as a human being without a savior. I live in that tension and hang onto with a thread of faith.
    –cate
    http://catesong.wordpress.com
    http://www.catesong.com

  2. Tony C says:

    After watching the video, it reminded me of the documentary series by Vanguard. It’s surprising the church in Africa is a huge driving force for crimes and hate towards homosexuals. If you haven’t you should take a look at this video. http://current.com/shows/vanguard/92468669_missionaries-of-hate.htm

  3. kim says:

    When I feel helpless, I often read this prayer from Henri Nouwen:

    Dear Lord, in the midst of much inner turmoil and restlessness, there is a consoling thought: maybe you are working in me in a way I cannot yet feel, experience or understand. My mind is not able to concentrate on you, my heart is not able to remain centered, and it seems as if you are absent and have left me alone. But in faith I cling to you. I believe that your Spirit reaches deeper and further than my mind or heart, and that profound movements are not the first to be noticed.

    Therefore, Lord, I promise I will not run away, not give up, not stop praying, even when it all seems useless, pointless, and a waste of time and effort. I want to let you know that I love you even though I do not feel loved by you, and that I hope in you even though I often experience despair. Let this be a little dying I can do with you and for you as a way of experiencing some solidarity with the millions in this world who suffer far more than I do. Amen.

  4. randall says:

    I have two responses to this difficult, brave, and necessary post.

    First (and I do not write this lightly or flippantly), in this Advent season I think we need reminders like this of the brokenness of the world. It highlights all the more our need to look and prepare for and model the return of Emmanuel. In a way, I wonder if Christianity today is like the ministry of John the Baptist – that we should be calling people to imagine and live the life of the new kingdom of God in preparation for Christ’s return.

    Second, I can’t help but wonder if much of the church’s refusal to support gay marriage (or at the very least, equal civil union rights) plays into these sorts of dehumanizing views. I’m not saying the church is entirely to blame but it does play a role in determining norms via its views on sin. I don’t know what the religious climate is like there in South Africa but I wonder how it’s responding to (or God forbid, supporting) these crimes.

    “O come, o come Emmanuel / and ransom captive Israel.”

  5. Tonya says:

    ‎”I know – it’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here – but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo – the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. ‘Cause sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy?

    How can the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow – even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

    Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were to small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand – I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances in turning back only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding onto to something.”

    “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

    “That there’s some good left in this world, Mr. Frodo – and it’s worth fighting for.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Maybe it is childish to resort to literary references, but I often do. I think Christ would agree as he was a great story teller as well. Not to lesson the horror of what has happened in this article, because I have never experienced anything of this magnitude, but I have been on the receiving end of some pretty horrific life circumstance. I know that as a Christian the most difficult part of dealing with human depravity is the doubt that He exists or that He ever loved you that accompanies the trauma. If you are lucky you are left with endurance, grace and hope that one day you may find His love again.

    I daily walk the precipice of doubt. But it is also my gift, or burden that I am empathetic. I can choose, as so many do, to not see, to turn my eyes from the horrors that exist outside the comfort of my sheltered little world, or I can look and be moved. I can allow it to affect me.

    Justice is our only choice. We must choose justice or we have stopped caring. We will have chosen to turn over to evil the people who have not yet been touched by the horrors. If we seek justice, in just one case, we will have won that battle. We can not win the war on justice all at once. But if for one person we have fought for their justice, maybe we have opened for them a path in the darkness where they can find their way back to Him and His love.

  6. tonya says:

    “I know – it’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here – but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo – the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. ‘Cause sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy?

    How can the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow – even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

    Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were to small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand – I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances in turning back only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding onto to something.”

    “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

    “That there’s some good left in this world, Mr. Frodo – and it’s worth fighting for.

  7. tonya says:

    Maybe it is childish to resort to literary references, but I often do. I think Christ would agree as he was a great story teller as well. Not to lesson the horror of what has happened in this article, because I have never experienced anything of this magnitude, but I have been on the receiving end of some pretty horrific life circumstance. I know that as a Christian the most difficult part of dealing with human depravity is the doubt that He exists or that He ever loved you that accompanies the trauma. If you are lucky you are left with endurance, grace and hope that one day you may find His love again.

    I daily walk the precipice of doubt. But it is also my gift, or burden that I am empathetic. I can choose, as so many do, to not see, to turn my eyes from the horrors that exist outside the comfort of my sheltered little world, or I can look and be moved. I can allow it to affect me.

    Justice is our only choice. We must choose justice or we have stopped caring. We will have chosen to turn over to evil the people who have not yet been touched by the horrors. If we seek justice, in just one case, we will have won that battle. We can not win the war on justice all at once. But if for one person we have fought for their justice, maybe we have opened for them a path in the darkness where they can find their way back to Him and His love.

  8. Jason says:

    Wow, that is beyond revolting.

  9. Cindy says:

    Thanks Tonya, I really am encouraged by your words.

    Eugene, I have to say you and your work have been a significant influence in bringing me out of the dark place you have described. Keep fighting the good fight. With that said, some time off fishing may be in order.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      hey cindy,

      thanks for your words.
      i’m not saying this to embellish anything. reading your email + pics of the kids running around w/ those water bottles really spoke to my heart. thank you for everything. we’ve never met but you’ve supported us – both odw and our family – in so many ways.

  10. Ann F-R says:

    Eugene, I was reading a post written by a S. African a couple of days ago, and he mentioned a quote from MLK Jr., which resonates with what you’ve written. (It’s at the end of the African Enterprise devotional, below.)

    Here’s the whole post – I sure felt the kick of encouragement when I read this. We may be mere drops of individuals, but each one life we touch is dear to God. We’re praying for you, that the Lord may continue to encourage you by the power of the Holy Spirit to keep on!

    Committed to the Glories of Love
    by Michael Cassidy (Founder, African Enterprise)

    Lesley Richardson, wife of one of my AE colleagues, is a good example of a person who has understood love’s ways in the world and seeks to do her bit. She said to me, “I have had to come to terms with the fact that I just cannot take on my heart the whole situation in our Pietermaritzburg townships. But I can care for a few black children in a special way and to that I am going to confine myself and do my positive best right at that point.”

    So she set about pioneering non-racial preschools in the Imbali township, near our city of Pietermaritzburg. There she came face to face with the stark reality of the discrepancies between black and white in education. Few of the available preschool programs were suitable for use in cross-cultural and disadvantaged settings. So Lesley adapted what she had and researched preschool materials from every available source.

    Then she set up a teacher training program, training women who had formerly been child-minders and nursery helpers, providing whole new careers and empowering these women, who now achieved new acceptance and self-esteem in their communities.

    Ultimately Lesley helped set up over 100 schools with 120 trained teachers to provide quality preschool training for hundreds of disadvantaged children. The need has been enormous, but the consequences of a quality start in life for these youngsters who will help build a new South Africa is inestimable.

    The point is that, whatever others may do which is negative or destructive, positive and concerned individuals must do their bit where and when they can. Said Martin Luther King: “When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetrate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.”

    This devotional is excerpted from The Politics of Love by Michael Cassidy (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990).

  11. So many thoughtful responses that encourage me…Nouwen is especially uplifting for me.
    I know in my heart of hearts that Satan is real and he is painfully aware that his time in the earth is short. John 10:10 says that Satan has come to steal kill and destroy, and I’d say he’s quite effective at it. Eugene, you are one steady light that is fighting the darkness and making headway in a world that looks ever so bleak at times. Well, good. When disaster and evil seem to deliver an extra portion in this life, then we know that Satan is good and mad and has reason to fight. You are a reason he fights. We are a reason he fights. Let him fight. We know who wins in the end. Thank you for not giving up. It inspires us to press on.

  12. Emily says:

    Yes… I’ve been feeling this lately. I think for the first time I’m really feeling the brokenness of the world and expressing outrage rather than glossing over it by saying “God is sovereign!” to myself. I just found-out that a friend of a friend woke-up the other day to find her little girl dead in her bed… I’m heartbroken and I’m really angry. This Christmas, I’m much less interested in the baby Jesus as I’ve known Him before and more interested in how He is setting things right again in the world. Hopelessness is definitely hanging around the edges of my heart.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      it’s good to be angry.
      but i still want to witness and see the redemptive power and grace of God.

      love this:

      This Christmas, I’m much less interested in the baby Jesus as I’ve known Him before and more interested in how He is setting things right again in the world.

  13. Mike Lehr says:

    Eugene, I was reflecting earlier today on providing an environment that allows questioning, doubt and skepticism in our churches and I came upon this post. Thanks for your honesty and reminding us it’s alright to cry out to God in those moments of doubt and confusion.

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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