By Lenmarie Pascal, District Licensed Minister
“Acts such as genocide happen when one fails to appreciate the humanity of others.” – Paul Bloom, The New Yorker
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. – Genesis 1:26a NLT
My first encounter with this level of carnage was Hotel Rwanda, a movie based on the real-life hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina staged during the Rwandan genocide between the Hutu’s and Tutsis. In one memorable scene, Paul and a hotel staff are driving through fog one early morning, the ride becomes so rough that they believe they’ve driven off the road and to potential danger. They make a stop, Paul exists the vehicle and falls on dead bodies, children and adults alike. The fog then clears, and for miles ahead the road is filled with a bloodbath of Tutsis. What kind of humans would do such a thing?
In the book, Mirror to the Church, the author describes the intimate involvement of the church in the genocide. He tells of Hutu pastors giving up their Tutsi congregants to be slaughtered and most notably describes the joyful Easter Saturday choir practice, where Hutu and Tutsi members sang and worshiped together until the next day, Easter Sunday, when Hutus “grabbed their clubs and machetes [and] went straight off to killing”. This image of the Body of Christ turning against each other is not unique to Rwanda, or even to genocide. It is a occurrence that repeats itself throughout the American church specifically on the issue of the ‘other’. Church leaders debasing women, racist comments preached from the pulpit and the rejection of the foreigner at the border lines.
In our own country we hear immigrants called ‘rapist’, thugs, drug dealers and the like. The Church is on the frontlines rallying against these vulnerable populations and are split on issues of justice on borders despite the scriptures admonition to show hospitality to strangers. To answer my first question, I would suggest that the type of human that would do such a thing are the ones who fail to acknowledge the Imago Dei in the ‘other’. Are those rallying to kick Haitians out of the country much different that the Hutus that had disdain for their neighbors? Are those that look at Mexicans only as laborers much different from the men who brought Africans as slaves on the White Lion in 1619? How do we see our neighbor? It is easy to assess extreme cases like genocide and assume that those people are savages but just like them we often fail to see the humanity of others.
To see the Imago Dei in someone means to regard them as Christ, to know, that like you, they were created in the image and likeness of God. They were bought with a price and given a purpose. It is imperative, that as Christ-followers, we see the humanity of the other, not as a project to save but as a brother, a sister, a friend.
Take the time to investigate what your relationship with the ‘other’ has been?
Start with the people in your community, the beggars on the street, the young men at the corner store.
Broaden your refection to those on the boarder, those on the margins.
Can you see the Imago Dei in the “others” you have identified?
Pray: Lord, I thank you and bless your name for loving humanity so deeply to place your Image in us. Help me today to love and embrace all who I see, as your image bearers. Reveal to me, my blind spots, where I fail to see you and respond to your image in each person I meet. Give me wisdom to not only see myself, but to see others and to respond with your love. My heart desires to do your will. I pray your strength for where I am weak and courage for where I am fearful. Use me for your glory, In Jesus Name, Amen.