Saturday, October 27, 2007

The danger of doing good

Here’s an interesting recent development in my former hometown of Abeche.

Several members of a French agency have been detained in Abeche due to the accusation of child trafficking. The French agency, Zoe’s Ark, is being accused of illegally trying to export hundreds of children back to France. France, UNICEF and Chad have all denounced this “rescue mission” and are pressing criminal charges. Meanwhile, hundreds of host families were waiting pointlessly at an airport in France to receive a Darfur orphan. Officials contend that some of the children are not from Darfur and some are not orphans – but most importantly, they say Zoe’s Ark did not follow international law governing the movement of children.

Read more about this in the UK’s Times newspaper.

I do not know this group and cannot say whether their motives were good or evil, but either way, this is a gravely unfortunate situation and illustrates the danger of inexperienced people trying to “do good.” Humanitarian work needs to be left up to the professionals.

I remember when an American mega-church raised thousands of dollars and sent the pastor over to my town in Chad to “do good.” The pastor was clueless to the local culture, local needs and was more intent on giving the money then thinking carefully about the consequences. He dropped into town unannounced, gave all the money to a local pastor with instructions to do good, and then left. Five days later, the local pastor was gone and so was all that money.

In our rush to come to the aid of people (which is a very good thing, by the way) we can sometimes act without thinking. I would like to assume that this is the case with Zoe’s Ark – a group of generous people with good intentions rushing ahead without playing by the rules. My prayers are with these children, no matter where they end up in this world.

Darfur peace talks open in Libya

Today, key UN and other international leaders are meeting in Libya to begin official peace negotiations to try to end the long-running conflict in Darfur. However, many people are calling the negotiations futile and doomed since the main rebel group’s leader pulled out before it started. It is true that there is severe intra-fighting between the splintered rebel groups and no one voice that speaks for the people of Darfur. That fact makes a comprehensive peace agreement virtually impossible. But is all really lost before it’s even started?

If one views peace talks like a win-lose situation (like a sports game) where the win is a piece of paper with everyone’s signature promising everlasting peace, then, yes, these talks are doomed.

But instead of viewing the peace talks like a sports game, let’s view them as a medical conference. Here, talented men and women with experience in international diplomacy can get together and put their heads together to come up with a long-lasting cure. We must share ideas, listen to the opposite sides and then push for action. So much can happen when people get together around a common goal.

I would much rather they have “doomed” peace talks than no peace talks at all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Picture

This picture from my childhood strikes a chord deep inside me. It makes me wonder what has happened to my young, carefree friends in the picture. Our dreams were filled with optimism - not murder and mutilation. Without the luxury of escaping the violence like me, have they been murdered? Are they hiding in the wilderness? Have they joined the fight? Do they have families and are their families safe? These are the burning questions that I want answered. I want to track them down, find them, and tell their stories. Can you help me?