Watcing the news recently of the unfolding drama involving Somalia pirates and kidnap vicitms reminds me of how terrible the situation in Somalia has been for so many years. Just over 15 years after the country first came to our attention after the Battle of Mogadishu, it is saddening to learn that so many in that unfortunate nation still suffer, now from generation to generation. Many of the “pirates” doing the dangerous boarding of ships and taking of hostages are young men with an average age of 15. They are compelled into these actions by force, threat of violence and murder, a complete lack of alternative options, faint hope for a richer future, and crippling poverty and lack of essential needs.
I cannot defend high seas piracy, and I will not say this is a danger to lives and property that should not be addressed. But I wonder if I had lived my whole life on the edge of starvation and constant privation, always under threat against my person and my family because of my tribe or clan, faced with a future that did not include education, health care, a steady job or career, the chance to travel, choice of a spouse, determining the destiney of my children… and I looked out to the ocean and saw the wealth of the world steaming by… what choices could I make? If someone put a gun in my hand and a gun to my head and told me I had no choice, what actions would I take? If, by risking my life (a life full of pain, sorrow, greif and fear), I could bring material wealth to help myself and aid my family, what would I be driven to do?
I’m fasting today to acknowlege those “criminals” in Somalia. Young boys and desperate men who have made choices I never had to face. Children who face lifetime debilitation due to malnutrition, mother’s who have no option but to watch their children waste away before them. People, Christians, Muslims, people, who want no more of war, famine, poverty or terror, but are caught between warring forces who only know hate, greed and bloodshed. People who hope for compassion and aid from a material-rich world that throws away as garbage 10X what is donated to global relief agencies. And a world that cheers the deaths of distant pirates, shot by Navy snipers, young boys with guns they barely know how to use, forced to make choices I never had to make.