26th June each year marks the United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Many displaced people are survivors of torture. Some embark on a boat journey in the open seas, crossing international borders to seek protection. The kind of boats they use are often ramshackle, not sea-worthy, and overloaded. At the mercy of the elements and vulnerable to exploitation, they not only have to endure a storm at sea but also a storm in their hearts.
In the passage of Mark’s Gospel this Sunday (Mark 4:35-41), the vivid narrative of the stormy voyage of the disciples has a happy ending. They all reached safety and were filled with awe. For people forced to flee by boat, however, the storm-tossed situation and trauma often do not end on reaching the shore. In fact, after landing, these displaced people have to confront a hurricane of challenges of various sorts.
In an ideal world where every person’s dignity is respected, there may be no need for a UN-designated day to advocate support for survivors of torture. However, in the devastating global reality of today, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have experienced cruel and degrading treatment. Many of them are forced to flee to safety. In addition, there are streams of ‘survival migration’ caused by political upheaval, ethno-religious conflict or socio-economic deprivation.
In the Gospel narrative, the panic-stricken passengers in the boats ‘crossing over to the other side’ realised the presence of Jesus with them, and the storm became calm. In the presence of Jesus the disciples could have peace even in the wildest storm.
The challenges for the local and international Christian community are how to make that presence of Jesus known and felt to the survivors of torture as well as to the displaced people, in a concrete and practical way. Some of these challenges are to offer peace in the storm of sorrow and anxiety, as well as security in the storm of fear and uncertainty.
It is always a blessing to be a part of someone’s healing and recovery. It is definitely a Christian calling to help others to mend their brokenness.