Lection Connection

September 13, 2020: Land Sunday

From Ray McGinnis

In August, the Associated Press ran this headline: “Russian General Killed by Land Mine Explosion in Syria.” But it is not just, or typically, military generals who are dying from stepping on land mines. The New Yorker reports that since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, over 40,000 people have died from stepping on land mines dropped by the United States Air Force. Over the decades, many victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO) have been farmers planting rice. Others die when their fishing line catches a land mine in a river or a stream. Some die while searching for scrap metal. Some die when they are cooking over a campfire and discover too late that an unexploded land mine is inches beneath the surface of the land. 

In Laos, over two million tons of ordnance fell during what Laotians call “The Secret War.” This lasted from 1964 to 1973 and involved over 580,000 bombing missions by the U.S. Air Force. Many unexploded land mines sunk into the mud on roads or in rice paddies. Many children have died or been crippled, as well as water buffalo. Ordinary people go about their lives, but every child is told about the dangers of land mines. Seminars for children, beginning in the first grade, warn them about the dangers of cooking on a patch of land they are not familiar with, cleaning a field or collecting wood in the forest. Laotian officials have documented that around 400 civilians have died or been injured each year since 1973 from exploding land mines. Those who are injured suffer from blindness, deafness, paralysis, and many have had limbs amputated.

When the land itself is made dangerous to farm, to fish, to salvage, to cook on or play on, people’s relationship to the land suffers, and they already endure enough hardships from weather and the hard work of making a living to begin with. But when land mines are added into the mix, not only people suffer. The task of finding a place to settle on the land is perilous. And the land itself erupts with the pain of the world at war, and the devastation of war’s aftermath.

Thankfully, there are a number of organizations who have tried to get nations to work to eradicate land mines. Mines Action Canada estimates that over 500,000 people are survivors of injuries because of land mines in over 54 countries around the world. With the work of non-governmental organizations like Mines Action Canada, pressure on nations resulted in a treaty in the late 1990s to ban land mines. Though 164 nations signed the treaty, the United States never signed on. And in January 2020 President Donald Trump signed legislation to loosen restrictions on land mines.

Still, there are organizations that help support those who have been crippled by land mines. Mines Action Canada invites people to host a “Bomb Appetit” dinner party as a fundraiser toward efforts to diffuse land mines in countries where civilians are at risk. In addition to physical distancing guidelines for a “Bomb Appetit” dinner, Mines Action Canada also describes a Virtual Fundraising Party for those in settings where meeting others in a physical distancing setting is not recommended by local health authorities.

 

Explore: Psalm 139:7–12

  • What is this scripture telling you? How is God like the land? How do you depend on the land?
  • List some of the ways the land supports you?
  • What is happening to people in the 54 countries where land mines have been dropped? How does this impact their relationship to the land?
  • Why do you think this story that gets little mention in the press?
  • What would Jesus do?

 

Prayer…
God of creation, you have created the land for us to dwell on, to work, rest and be in harmony with. Help us listen to the land and the story it might tell us about how war changes everything, including the nature of the land itself. May we walk softly on the earth and discern what the Spirit is calling us to do to repair the land for the sake of right relations. In Christ we pray. Amen. 

 

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