safety

Are Foreign Aid Workers Unprepared for Violence Abroad?

Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Nancy Wiechec / RNS

A sign for Kayla Mueller is in Prescott on February 10, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Nancy Wiechec / RNS

The risk of foreign aid work, especially for young people, has again been thrust into the national spotlight after the death of 26-year-old Kayla Mueller.

Mueller, a foreign aid worker, was confirmed dead Feb. 10 after being taken hostage by Islamic extremists in 2013 in Syria.

Even as aid organizations have improved security protocols over the past several years, workers can be placed in war-torn areas where safety cannot be guaranteed, said Abby Stoddard of Humanitarian Outcomes, a research and policy group for humanitarian agencies.

And those who feel compelled to take part in easing human suffering abroad may put safety second.

A Lenten Commitment to Homeland Insecurity

Katherine Welles/ Shutterstock.com

'If you see something, say something" outside an airport, Katherine Welles/ Shutterstock.com

We clearly live in a world that is filled with risks and dangers, and because the increased availability of modern technology allows for harm to occur at unprecedented rates and levels, one can argue that we live in one of the most treacherous eras of human history. However, while the need for protection from harm is both natural and commendable, we are forced to consider whether protection itself can eventually become harmful, unnatural, and even condemnable. In other words, with such extensive resources invested in the pursuit of safety and security, one is forced to consider: What are the consequences of such “protection?" And what happens when so much time and effort is dedicated toward protecting ourselves from our neighbors that we eventually lose sight of who are neighbors actually are? At what point does the heightened priority of protection lead to the increased inevitability of isolation and ignorance? And finally, in our efforts to build impenetrable walls of protection (often in the name of freedom), do we not eventually incarcerate ourselves from the rest of the world and thus limit what it actually means to live free?

A New Matthew 25 Hymn: "O God, We Yearn For Safety"

Stained glass church window depicting the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25

Stained glass church window depicting the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25.

The Sunday, Nov. 13 lectionary gospel is Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). 

Kari Jo Verhulst, in Sojourners, reflected on Jesus’ challenging teaching: “The point is not to perfect our particular gifts, or ourselves, but to quit hoarding ourselves from others, and instead step out in faith that we have been given all we need.” 

The following new hymn affirms that Jesus’ parable calls us to faithfulness even when it involves risk and challenge today.

O God, we yearn for safety; We long to be secure.

Yet faithful, loving service Is what you value more.

You give us what is needed; You love, forgive and save.

Then, sending us to serve you, You call us to be brave.

You give to some ten talents—to others, two or three;

To some you give one blessing To manage faithfully. ...

Subscribe