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Who Is My Neighbor?
The following is quoted from the book I picked up recently at my local library, The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village, by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri and Susan Urbanek Linville, and which I found to be an inspiring read.
The basic story is old, and familiar to many people of Christian background, but I have rarely found it applied so well to current world issues. This speech Jackson made is an example of just how inspiring a speaker he is, as well as how quotable are many passages in the book.
I began with the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story from the Book of Luke about an average man who aids a stranger left beaten at the side of the road. Two thousand years ago, Jesus had used this story to challenge the religious establishment of his day. I wanted to impel others to consider their responsibility to the community through a fresh perspective.
"This is a simple and yet most profound parable," I said, glancing at some of the orphaned children in the room before me. "It can be applied to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has claimed forty million lives, turned fifteen million wives into widows, and robbed fourteen million children of their parents. The parable challenges us today to ask, 'Who is my neighbor?' Is it only the person who lives in the house next to us? Is it only the people who attend our church? Is it only the people we know? What about the complete stranger who lives in the neighboring village? The stranger living in another country? The stranger living halfway around the world? Are they not our neighbors too?"
Many in the audience nodded. The parable was one of the most foundational and universal tenets of moral law, a lesson Jesus demonstrated through the actions of four characters: the victim, the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan.
"At the beginning of the story there is a victim on the road, but who is the man? We know that he was beaten by robbers and was in dire need, but we do not know his ethnicity or nationality. We do not know if he was involved in some illicit activity that led to the attack or if he was just a careless traveler. He may even have been one of the robbers, beaten by his fellow thieves.
"The power behind the parable is not how the man came by his situation, but how he is helped by the Samaritan. It is not relevant whether the beaten man is at fault. We are bound by Scripture to respond to all those who are downtrodden, no questions asked.
"Should we distinguish between those who become victims because of sinful behavior and those who are innocent?" The HIV/AIDS issue was complicated by the fact that many Christians considered the disease retribution from God for sinful behavior. "The Scripture makes it clear who has the right and responsibility to judge. It is God. Not us. Amen."
For a review of the book, and to learn more about the Nyaka AIDS Orphans School Project, see related links below.
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village, pp. 184-185. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri and Susan Urbanek Linville. Copyright (c) 2010 by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri and Susan Urbanek Linville.
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