Continent of conflict welcomes the world

On Friday, June 11th, 2010, Africa will move to the forefront of our global consciousness. The world summoned to the FIFA World Cup of football, held for the first time on the continent of Africa. The ‘beautiful game’ is being played on a continent that is presently not so beautiful. At last count over 9 tribal conflicts are occurring in Africa. 88% of the global conflict death toll, since 1990, belongs to Africa. If the amount of war in Africa over the last 20 years was in Europe we would have called it World War lll.

But there will be soccer. The beautiful game. 32 nations competing in Africa.

Much of the recent bloodshed in Africa is the result of tribal warfare. Much of the bloodshed in history is corollary of tribal warfare. Without over simplifying tribal warfare and diminishing the threat of loss that can engage people in conflicts of bloodshed, tribal hostilities often trace back to issues of land, historical rights, civil liberties and human classification (ethnic cleansing).

Kicking the ball is good. Scoring better. Winning the best. Conflict of another kind.

The conflict in Darfur is one of the more prominent African tribal wars. Darfur is a region in the Sudan. Guerilla warfare broke out in 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Army, and others (namely JEM), took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing black Africans in favor of Arabs. The Sudanese conflict is as between the predominately Arab/Muslim North and the non-Arab/Muslim ‘African’ South. The number of human casualties since 2003 ranges from twenty thousand to hundreds of thousands either killed in direct combat or starvation and disease engendered by the conflict. In 2008 the prosecutors for the ICC (International Crimes Court) filed charges of war crimes against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. In 2009 the UN security council unsuccessfully endeavored to instigate a peace agreement. Conflict has broken out as late as May 2010, killing 27 police officers and 180 rebel forces. With tribal lines drawn the tribal injustices continue. The UN Security council referees are far too human and powerless to overcome this injustice.

France, you benefited from injustice. The Irish are working on forgiveness for your undetected hand ball in the qualifying round for the World Cup. Thierry Henry, you were honest about the injustice.

Jesus invites us all to follow him and be a part of his tribe. His tribe is not called to tribal warfare of a human kind. Confronted by his enemies in the garden Jesus’ friends, turned his army, expressed unanticipated hostility towards his assailants. In haste Peter drew his sword and severed the right ear of the enemy. Yet, it was Jesus who grasped that detached ear in his own hand. Covered in its blood, Jesus restored the ear to his enemy’s body. As His followers we join his tribe without becoming tribal. God does not war against the ones he loves. He is slow to anger and rich in love. What He could not do through power God does through suffering. It is in the injustices of our life that He lives, that we live. He lived by our rules, the purity of the impure game of life intact.

Won or lost in the confines of 17 rules applied by the gods, called referees. No replays. The purity of the impure game in tact. Real life exists and not all calls are fair in football.

Who are our enemies? Should we have enemies? Or better asked, how should we handle our enemies, our conflicts? No small question to ask ourselves. We can look to Rwanda, Sierra Leone or more recently Darfur but we can do it from a distance. From a place of emotional disconnection. What if we take it home, into our lives where we fight over land, rights, and classifying people in our lives. Do we not have our own mini – Darfur’s to contend with? Often without bloodshed but war is still in our hearts. We all play in the game of conflict. The invitation of Jesus is to love our enemies. Now that is close to home.

The beautiful game. Most of the world plays it at home. Enemies meet there.

Africa welcomes the world
Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on June 7, 2010.

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