I’m ashamed to say that for the last few years I’ve tuned out. Numb to the daily grind of propaganda and fear-infused headlines, I tuned out from the news channels and the networks and completely disconnected television from our home. Honestly, I’m mostly okay with that part. Yet there’s a part of me that now wonders if that wasn’t completely selfish at the same time.
I found an anonymous quote that reads: “It’s both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply.” My heart intimately knows this truth. This world is so dark. My mind understands this – it’s not hard to see – and yet my heart still can’t hold it. So often I find myself “caught between a strong mind and a fragile heart.”
So I look away.
Then I heard the story of One Million Thumbprints (1MT).
One Million Thumbprints is rooted in the story of a woman from the Congo named Esperance. Before escaping to a UN refugee camp, Esperance watched as her husband was murdered at the hands of rebels after she was raped almost to the point of death. Like many others, her story went untold and her suffering unrecognized. I’m ashamed to say that in my safe, comfortable middle-class home I wouldn’t have seen it even if it had.
1MT was founded by an ordinary woman named Belinda Bauman as a promise to Esperance. A promise to share her story by telling the world of the atrocities suffered not only by Esperance, but by millions of other women like her.
In a somber and moving piece titled: It’s Cheaper To Rape a Woman Than Waste a Bullet, Lynne Hybels tells the story of a woman named Amena. A young Iraqui woman recently rescued from ISIS, Amena was traded for pleasure to other fighters as a prize. She endured not only the murder of her husband but also the capture, sex trafficking and death of some of her children including her infant. Showing Lynne the photos of her dead babies, she softly whispered, you need to help these women.
Every day, millions of women still experience brutal violence as a result of conflict and war. These women endure unimaginable physical and psychological trauma as they are often left crippled, shamed, and ostracized from their communities. Their husbands are tortured and murdered and to further terrorize the women, their children are taken, forced into the sex trade and even brutally killed. Despite their unimaginable and devastating stories, female victims of war continue to be forgotten, silenced, and excluded from efforts to rebuild.
1MT is dedicated to restoring the lives and dignity of these women. If you haven’t heard of it, you can find out more about it here. The campaign takes on a two-pronged approach: (1) advocating for the implementation of UN resolutions that will help protect women in conflict zones; and (2) partnering with organizations on the ground to meet practical needs including food, clothing, shelter and trauma assistance.
When Esperance asked Belinda Bauman to “tell the world” her story, she signed her request with a thumbprint because she couldn’t write. Her thumbprint became their mandate: Violence against women in war zones is violence against each of us. Each thumbprint collected for 1MT is a visual representation of solidarity and a call to action.
If you’ve ever witnessed the desperate, debilitating and devastating effects of violence in any form, you know: Violence against one of us is violence against us all.
Violence starts in the mind and is a reckless, insidious beast. We become desensitized because we’ve seen so much that sometimes we don’t even understand that it’s wrong. It’s so normal. We must teach our children and remind ourselves that violence in any form is not okay. Ever. It’s not okay for a man to abuse his wife; a boyfriend his girlfriend; a teacher a student; a parent a child; or a child a friend. And it’s not okay to hurt an animal. Violence is violence and it eventually hurts us all.
March 8, 2016 is International Women’s Day. On this day, fifteen women will summit Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise the banner of thumbprints in honor of the women we fight for. My dear friend Krista will be one of the climbers uniting with these women to bring the violent acts committed against them into the light. Though we may not be able to climb a mountain in the Congo, we can still climb this mountain.
As they climb, we can raise our voice, our resources, our hopes, our hearts AND our thumbprints.
As women, we are the heart of the world. As nurturers, teachers, innovators, leaders, helpers, caregivers and life-givers, it is time to rise. Together, let us stand united as women proclaiming not only our value and dignity – but our commitment to fighting for all women to know peace.
Perhaps like me you’ve felt powerless to help, or your heart simply couldn’t stand to feel the pain of knowing the truth. But now we know, we can no longer look away.
Don’t look away.
Please go to 1MT and add your thumbprint. I promise you will be humbled, inspired and unmistakably moved by this beautiful grassroots movement to stand together as, and for, women. If you feel further led to partner with 1MT in advocating and protecting these women, and providing practical needs right where they are, you can donate in ones or tens or a thousand, right here.
By ourselves we can only do our part, but together we can change the world. Let’s do it.
Love and blessings and so much peace.