We had a friend over for dinner last night -- a hearty meal and interesting conversation on a cold, wintry evening. (The snow is well past my knees now and local stores are having difficulty keeping ski equipment stocked.)
Our guest brought up recent reports and Swedish journalist investigations into aspects of the United Nations conduct in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are numerous horrible reports coming out of that area, this one focussed on the remarkably high percentage of U.N. soldiers stationed there admitting to having been with a prostitute. The stories of these women are quite tragic. Our friend told us of one 14-year-old girl who had, sadly, a not-uncommon tale. She was attacked and raped by three men, who also "damaged" her with a knife. Her "recovery" has now left her with the option of prostitution to provide for herself and her young child.
These awful things -- along with mass murders and tortures of civilians by U.N.-sanctioned Congolese soldiers, misappropriation of arms and supplies, and more -- are taking place under the "watchful" eye of the U.N., and by responsibility, the world. Now, it seems, opinions are against the U.N. continuing what is currently their largest peacekeeping operation, but have recently extended their stay by another five months.
I read an editorial this morning from the Los Angeles Times which posed the question:
"Can the U.N. help the government overcome rebels who torture and kill civilians without assisting, even inadvertently, Congolese soldiers who are allegedly engaged in similar human rights abuses?"
This is only one question of a thousand. It's hard to not take a cynical stance towards the U.N. and their role in countries like the Congo. And yet, when inaction results in terrible tragedy, as in the case of the Congo's neighbor Rwanda, the U.N. is blamed with howls of protest.
It's difficult to even form an opinion, much less "do something". Looking at an individual issue it's simple to determine right or wrong but the further you back up things become gray: complicated, with expressions tossed about like "necessary evil" or "greater good".
As I am writing, lyrics of a song from Waterdeep come to mind. There is hope for the hopeless. There is justice. There is clarity in confusion. Assurance of things unseen.
"He will comfort all that's hardened / change the deserts into gardens / and we all will see His face. He will come. He will come. He will soften all the starkness / break the chambers of our darkness / and we'll all be overwhelmed."