Last month my quest for a Ukrainian visa landed me in the city of Krakow, Poland. This beautiful city with its beautiful castle, dragon lore, and horse drawn carriages was also once a major cultural center for Polish Jews before the horrors of WWII. While there I took a tour one evening of Kazimierz (the old Jewish district of Krakow) and the next day visited Auschwitz-Birkenau.
I wandered through buildings and along paths trying to focus on what my guide was saying, but more often than not I was being pulled away by photos, artifacts, the sheer size of the place and number of innocent lives taken. There were what seemed like mountains of luggage, shoes, cooking utensils. Several times I found myself pulling away from the group as I fought to contain my composure.
As I stood in the unloading area of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp, I still could not imagine the atrocity that once happened there. A single train car sits on the railroad track. The dirt is level and clean. The grass is manicured and beautiful and silence hangs in the air.
I tried to imagine it packed with frightened, exhausted, hungry people, young and old alike being separated from their loved ones and having their possessions taken from them and thrown into piles like rubbish. Innocent people, found guilty simply of being born into a Jewish heritage and hated for it.
It was simply overwhelming.
A couple of years ago I also walked along paths among mass graves from Pol Pot’s attempt to cleanse Cambodia and I remember the same feeling.
Less than a decade ago over as many as 20% of the country of Rwanda was killed within a span of approximately 100 days.
The part that hurts my heart most is knowing that genocide isn’t just something that happened, it still happens. As I write people are being systematically killed in places such Burma and Sudan on our watch. I simply cannot understand and am left with no other answer except we are all sinful people, inherently evil, and desperately in need of God.
Sometimes I get lost on the “what to do about it” part. It is such a huge issue among so many other huge issues like human trafficking, poverty, lack of clean water, etc.
If you want to stay current with what is going on worldwide with this issue, I suggest checking out the Genocide Intervention Network, which gives areas of concern, how you can help and ways to stay informed.
If you want a more tangible option, some dear friends of mine, Mark and Kathy Lucas, are taking a team to South Sudan and Uganda this summer and could use your prayers and support.