Murphy’s Law

 

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“Murphy’s Law doesn’t mean that something bad will happen. What it means is whatever can happen will happen.” Interstellar

Excuse me for using an Interstellar quote, but it is a rather appropriate summary of what our YAV year has been like. That has meant that we got to go to the Philippines, and were here to witness a lot of political change in Korea like Korea and Japan coming to an agreement about the Comfort Women without the comfort women.

It has meant seeing protests in Gang Jeong village come to an end, and the birth of a Peace School as an alternative way to still work towards change amidst political pressure.

But in particular within our house we have had Murphy’s Law hard at work in our day to day lives. We’ve had the opportunity to have the Hannam Festival twice during one year, as well as the reunification run again which I will be participating in in June. Unusual as they are supposed to be once a year events, I guess in that way we’ve been lucky. We’ve also had two separate movies filmed at or near our house here, and a small bush fire.

We’ve definitely had our share of house conflict, something that is not unusual, but also things that completely blind-sided us with their severity. Mid-February we were all contacted by someone trying desperately to contact Alexis. We found out shortly after that her only sister had passed away in a car accident. Alexis was the first of the Korea YAVs to go home. None of us were sure if she was coming back or not, but thankfully she did.

We had the opportunity to continue working on our little community because of that, though intentional community is not easy. And again all at once in the Spring, once our bosses Kurt and Hyeyoung left for their month long US trip, Will and Alexis were in a minor car accident, and Will found out that his uncle had passed away within a two day span.

It was already scheduled that Linda would be going home for her older sister’s wedding, but before she could go, Emily slipped on wet ground and twisted her knee. You can read about this in her own words on her blog here. She had had a history of knee problems already, but this time it required surgery so before Linda left we went with Emily to the airport.

Two days later, Linda left. Soon after she returned Will left for his uncle’s memorial service. He is still currently gone, but scheduled to return at the end of the week. Life in the house in between these moments has been ever changing. I’ve had nearly every combination of roommate, and am still hoping that Emily will be able to come back to Korea.

I sit in a position of privilege having not had my own circumstances that has sent me home, so it is easier for me to say that I have learned a lot this year, but I don’t think that tragedy’s purpose is to teach us or that it even has a purpose other than being a part of life we must live with. I do think that my roommates have taught me a lot whether intentionally or not about how to love people that are not like me and that are going through things I will never understand. I’ve been given a chance to practice what I preach in terms of grace – to give it, but also very importantly to receive it from my roommates as well.

This year we’ve spoken a lot about what it means to have God with us in these times. Many times it doesn’t seem to make sense, and it frequently doesn’t feel like He is with us. I don’t pretend to know the answers or to know God’s role in all of this. Though I invite you to be with us in prayer as we sort through it all.

No Peace Without Justice

Dr. Martin Luther King: “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.”

We returned from our first YAV retreat December 3rd, and it was an eye opening trip. One consistent theme of what we’ve been learning has been about massacres and various human rights violations. I’ve mentioned them a few times already in my blog posts, and I’ve been told it is something that will continue throughout the year. The U.S. killing Koreans, the Japanese killing Koreans, Koreans killing Koreans, and the list goes on. If it’s not killing it’s the systematic rape of women from conquered countries as comfort women that continues even today in different forms, or free agency taken from those who should be free. These are not fun or easy topics to deal with.

Take the case of the comfort women – women who were taken from their homes or offered jobs as nurses or entertainers were used as sex slaves for the Japanese army. These were women from Korea, China, Vietnam, and many more countries who were displaced, systematically raped, and when the war ended were left behind in whatever country they had been taken to. Japan does not acknowledge that this occurred despite numerous live victims, records, and accounts. When confronted with this (as the Japanese embassy in Korea has every single Wednesday since 1992 by protests held by the surviving comfort women) they claim that those protesting are anti-Japanese.

It’s easy to be angry. In fact, it is probably a healthy response to such an atrocity. But I think it’s important to distinguish between a few things in that anger. One being that the Japanese are not evil. Whenever a blanket statement is used to vilify an entire people the response will not be compassionate or just. That then becomes a reason to retaliate in ways that would be regrettable in a similar fashion to sex slavery, or massacres. This is not a way to peace.

That being said, the actions were atrocious and the Japanese government should still be held accountable for their actions. For them not to be held accountable would be a crime against the women who experienced this injustice.

(It is also important to distinguish between a government and a people, and direct that anger justly. How frightening it would be to be held personally accountable to all that the US government has done!)

The roles in the paragraphs above can be swapped out for just about any government or incident. The US did atrocious things to Korea too, and really many other countries too. In fact as a response to WWII the US put Japanese Americans into internment camps regardless of their involvement with the war irreparably damaging lives. Anti-Japanese sentiments in the US led to the death of Vincent Chin (who, by the way, was not Japanese) a notorious hate crime in the Asian American community. What I’m realizing as I learn more about peace through this experience is that we can’t stop more from happening without recognizing the humanity of everyone involved.

It is easy to see in hindsight how these things were wrong, but I would argue that we are dealing with similar sentiments in the US currently. Anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise which is contributing to refusing refugees who are fleeing from the same terrorists that the US so deeply hates. Making decisions based on fear of the other keeps the other as caricatures of who they are, and very importantly keeps them inhuman. It would be very Christ-like, but also very human to do the difficult work to undo this hatred so we can make steps towards peace.

To care for those who are hurt and recognize the humanity of all is important, but that still leaves situations like the comfort women with extreme injustice. The job of a peace maker is not to just sweep the pain of victims under the rug, and it is not to be passive. Without reparations for the crimes committed there will be no justice for the comfort women. To leave it at that does not create peace either even if there is an illusion of peace. Without admission of guilt similar crimes continue unchallenged, and the turmoil for the comfort women for many have been taken to their graves. So I encourage you to walk the line of keeping your heart open to see each other as human, but also recognize the need for accountability in the face of injustice because there is no peace without justice.

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