Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15NIVBy Corey Bailey
As I reflect on my recent trip to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka I am struck by our need as humans to be heard; to tell our story and have someone care enough to listen.
I spent much of my time in these countries listening to people’s stories and experiences of persecution. Both children and adults relayed astonishing accounts of what they went through. It covered a broad range of abuse, from children being sold to Islamic Training Centers and beaten with live wires when they refused to read the Quran, to pastors in rural areas that were beaten and told to close down their churches or watch the “bloodshed as we kill all your parishioners.”
For some, I traveled eight hours on a bumpy road into the jungles to sit with them and listen. Others invited me into their homes and taught me how to make traditional bread, called chipati, and shared their stories over dinner. Still more traveled to a secluded area to meet me, far away from the prying eyes of their villages, to convey their struggles. Some parents brought their children on a 15-hour journey to meet me in hopes that I would be able to hear their story and help them.
Even more humbling was the fact that, for the most part, they just needed someone to listen. They needed someone to hear them. They were amazed when I would tell them that people across the world were praying for them. With tears in their eyes the pastors would say, ”Thank you for your prayers. To know that someone is listening to us and caring for us means everything. We are not forgotten and we can continue to face our persecutions.”
When the children who were held captive in Islamic Training Centers finished relaying their experiences, they said, “Please let everyone know what happened to us. Please, please ask them to remember us. Ask them [to] help us to get a good education so that we can have a future.”
As they left one by one, it was always the same: hope would flood their eyes and a slight smile would cross their face. It was as though you could see the power of their story being shared, heard and valued fill their eyes and souls as a balm to heal and give them the strength to carry on.