Sunday, January 1, 2012

Los Desaparecidos

In 1976 the military junta took control of the country of Argentina. In order to stop further anarchy, the government began to crack down on domestic terrorists who had been plaguing the government and police. They also began searching for political dissidents and anyone who disagreed with their current policies. They began rounding up individuals from all walks of life: professors, priests, students, Communists, actors, Socialists, former political workers, bankers… All types of people were taken from their homes, offices, and off the streets, and were never heard from again. They are known as “los Desaparecidos,” or “the disappeared.” It is estimated that more than 30,000 Argentines were killed by the military regime in the eight years of their rule.

Every Thursday a group of women wearing white headscarves gather in Plaza de Mayo to plead for justice and information. They are “las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo),” and they are family members (mothers, wives, and sisters) or those who disappeared during the regime. They have been working to bring justice for these individuals since 1977. They have their own radio station, office building, and public relations arm. They are seeking to raise

support for their cause. They don’t ever want the world to forget what has happened to these people.

As you walk around Buenos Aires, you will often find small plaques set into the ground. Some are plain; others are decorated with small painted stones or colorful pieces of glass. All of them tell a story. It gives the name of the individual (or individuals), the date they disappeared, and the (supposed) of which they were accused. You find them in the strangest places: there are ten outside of a bank in Microcentro (downtown). There are two that I have found within two blocks of our home. They are constant reminders of those who are no longer with us, and a reminder that we should mourn those who aren’t here any longer.

Los Desaparecidos… We have them within our churches as well. There are countless people who simply leave through the back door of our churches. Sixty percent of our youth leave the Churches of Christ by the time they graduate college. People get offended by another church member and simply stop coming. People quietly struggle with their faith or the challenges in their lives, and it is easier to stop coming to church than to feel lost or hypocritical. All of us, if we stopped and thought about it, could think of someone that we haven’t seen in a while. “Where is Brother/Sister So-and-so? I haven’t seen them in forever…” Where are their plaques? Where are the people championing for their needs? Where are their church family members standing vigil, waiting with the hope that they will return? Too often our own Disappeared simply disappear without anyone thinking a second thought.

Jesus calls us to unity; he challenges us to be one, and he prays for us to be one (see John 13-17). That means that we must seek to encourage all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must seek out those who have wondered away. We must bless those who are struggling. We must show love and compassion to those who have been wounded by churches. Jesus left the 99 to search for the lost 1; how can we do any less? The Mothers would give anything to have their lost children back; can we do any less for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

May our churches not be littered with thousands of plaques or vague remembrances of those who have disappeared. Instead, may we strive to bless those who have left our churches for whatever reason.

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