"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

11.25.2008

thanksgiving

Today I've posted a series of pictures from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They are just a few of the haunting images that are coming out of the horrific situation there, shot by amazing photographers whom I hope won't be mad at me for posting their pictures. These are pictures that capture the Congo that I know, one where suffering and hope exist side-by-side, one where the absurd site of a soldier in drag is followed by one of a mother carrying a baby on her chest and a heavy load of branches on her back.

We focus so much on ourselves at Thanksgiving. We're thankful for our family, and our friends, and for the chance to be together with one another. We're grateful for good food and for football, and we're glad that we can spend a little less on Christmas gifts because of the deals at the mall on Friday.

These things are not bad. We should be grateful, for we are among the luckiest people in the world. We do not have to worry about our own safety, or that of our children. We do not have to wonder when soldiers will invade our towns, or if we will have food next week. We don't have to walk ten miles under a heavy burden every day just to make a living. We do not have to try to make homes in shacks made of branches, or under plastic sheeting provided by the UN, or in the open without shelter from the rain. We are so, so fortunate.

But others are not. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that there are millions and millions of Congolese families suffering on the other side of the world. There are parents who lost their children while running for safety. There are children who could care less whether they get the latest toys for Christmas. They'd settle for finding their parents and having a decent meal for once.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a strong supporter of Heal Africa, and that I always suggest donating to their work as a great way to take action to help the Congolese. I know it's hard to know whom to trust with your money. All I can give you is my word. I support Heal Africa because they are a local organization of Congolese Christians. They speak the languages, understand the cultures, and know how to implement long-term, sustainable solutions to problems. They are not perfect, but they do a better job of working in those impossible circumstances than any group I know. And they could use your help.

I know it's hard to give money away when things are tight at home. But we have so much. I hope that this year, as you give thanks, you will remember that others have little for which to be thankful. I hope that you won't just say, "There but for the grace of God go I," shrug your shoulders, and go on living like you did before you knew about these things. And I hope that you'll choose to skip some of the gluttony of Thursday and the excess of Friday so that someone else may live. Happy Thanksgiving.

(Photo of Nyanzale IDP camp: BBC)

(You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them. I highly recommend doing so; most of them are stunning.)

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