A Sunday newspaper article began by saying that 4.7 million people had died in the war. I’d already expressed my amazement about this to my wife before I realised it couldn’t be the war in Iraq. I’d fallen into John Humphries’ trap – there are other wars going on at the moment. He was referring to the four years of civil war in the Congo, fought with brutality and sometimes butchery, and virtually forgotten by the rest of the world.
The crucifixion of Christ, which will be marked by millions of Christians this coming Friday, was, when it happened, only a sideshow in the swathe of history which was the Roman Empire. The Emperor Tiberius and the people of Rome had much more important things on their minds than what was happening in Palestine. Christ’s brutal death, like that of most of those 4.7 million, would have been completely ignored by all but those intimately involved, except for what followed. It was among a forgotten people that Christ lived and died.
Events and people on the sidelines are at least as significant as those that are centre-stage. Today could be a day for remembering those who are normally forgotten. And for Christians, not least because that’s what God chose to do.
The worst thing about door-to-door collecting for a charity is when people say “no”. It's frustrating that people can’t afford even something small for the cause the collector's giving up their time for. But, deeper than that, for virtually all of us, being refused stimulates feelings of rejection that go deep into our past and make us hurt more than the immediate situation would seem to warrant.
Many Christian Aid collectors will feel rejected this week. In this they share something, albeit very superficially, with those for whom they collecting. Money they raise will go to people who have been rejected, rejected by those who control national and international economies, and who have been left to struggle for the basics of life.
Jesus seemed to get on best with those who knew what it was like to be rejected. He appeared to find in them an openness to life to which he warmed and many of them responded with excitement to his different way of looking at the world, a way that celebrates mutual care and finds joy in the simple.
Whatever may be the cause, times when we are pushed aside can become times when we are more open: open to how others may be feeling, open to new depths in life, and open to priorities like Jesus’s.
Kamaran Abdurrazaq Mohammed was the Kurdish translator who accompanied the BBC’s John Simpson during his reporting of the first part of the war against Saddam Hussein. However on April 6th an American F14, from a height of only 500 feet, attacked the convoy in which they were travelling instead of the Iraqi tank nearby. Eighteen people, including Kamaran, were killed. “Sheer criminal negligence on someone’s part”, John Simpson calls it.
Three weeks ago, Simpson visited Kamaran’s family in north Afghanistan. There has been no official investigation, no report, no apology. Nothing from the US authorities that even recognises the tragedy. The BBC has been generous with its compensation. But what means much more than the money to the grieving family are the small signs that Kamaran mattered. The BBC’s book on the war has been dedicated to his memory and he was remembered, along with other, better known reporters, at the memorial service last week for journalists who died in the war. When Kamaran’s mother hears this, says John Simpson, “her pride will, for a moment, outweigh her sense of loss.”
Today hardly any of us will meet anyone who has been so tragically bereaved. But we will be in touch with people who feel overlooked or that their contribution or their pain is ignored. Let’s remember that for them, it is often the small ways in which their value is recognised that makes the difference.