What does it take to break your heart? What level of suffering or trauma do you need to see or experience before you have an emotional response? As I reflect on and talk about my “holiday” in Nepal, several times I have been surprised that I had to struggle to hold back tears. WHY? I suspect that the problem was that we got too close to the people and did not just look at the beautiful, spectacular mountains!
The poverty we saw, the stories we heard, the people we touched and the inevitable smells we experienced all affected us at a deep level. The picture is a very complex one, with the after effects of the earthquake earlier in the year still obvious, with thousands still in emergency housing at the onset of a bitter winter. A blockade on the southern border with India has reduced the flow of many necessities, particularly gas for cooking, petrol and diesel for vehicles and generators. As a result, after 20 years of encouragement to use clean fuel for cooking they were back to wood fires for all their cooking and heating! Needless to say, the air quality in Katmandu was fairly poor. The trucks who ran the blockade were easy to pick, they had smashed windscreens. Our friends who work at a mission run teaching hospital (in Tansen) told us that many of their medical supplies were dangerously low and people would soon be dying as a result.
Yet, for all that they are a resilient people, and by the time we left even though no fuel was being sold, the traffic was almost back to normal and the black market was thriving! Cooking gas was starting to become available but the lines were VERY long and I suspect that the price was prohibitive but they need to eat.
Recently while attending a Women, Peace and Security conference I was saddened by the statistics on abuse of women and people trafficking. I have now met a young girl whose parents were in the process of selling her to an Indian “agent”. A relative intervened she ended up in the group home I visited. Instead of being a prostitute in India she sat beside me learning how to play UNO! I listened to so many sad stories of girls who were not wanted and simply discarded as worthless, it broke my heart. Yet these girls were found, loved, fed, clothed and restored, given the chance to go to school and that is making a world of difference. My wife and I are part of that solution, but we are also now painfully aware of the immensity of the problem.
The great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi put it like this:
“the difference between what we do
and what we are capable of doing
would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
Padre Ian Whitley AM