In recent days the whole nation is becoming concerned about the Ebola outbreak. Our fear-mongering media with their 24-hour news cycle are succeeding in scaring us into near hysteria about a possible epidemic. Serious debates are afoot over whether we should close our borders and disallow any travelers from that part of the world from landing on our shores. The temptation is to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. And yet, experts are telling us that the best solution is to engage the problem in West Africa and eradicate it there itself. In other words, we cannot pretend to protect ourselves by ignoring the problem. We need to face it head on. We cannot afford to be indifferent to it because we think it is not our problem.
In this age of constant international travel and trade, it is almost impossible to seclude ourselves from anything that happens in the far corners of the globe. Through the emergence of this disease - We have had others before such as AIDS, and bird flu - we are reminded that we are in this together. We are all interconnected. John Donne said it beautifully in his Devotions:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod is washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
If it is true, then, that we belong together, we cannot ignore the problems of the world. What affects our brothers and sisters far away affects us too. This is the lesson that we have learned about terrorism and violence. Just because we ignore it, it does not go away. Somehow someday it will creep across our borders. If we truly believe we are children of the same Father, we need to care. We cannot be indifferent.
Very often we do not hurt people by doing something malicious. We turn a deaf ear to their cries. Sometimes indifference is our sin. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus recounts a parable about a king who threw a feast for his son’s wedding. Many of the invited guests refused to come, not because they disliked the king, but because they were too busy with their own concerns. They were indifferent to the king’s invitation. In the same way, evangelist Luke tells us about a rich man and Lazarus. While the rich man feasted lavishly, Lazarus languished at his door waiting for some scraps from the rich man’s table. The rich man was condemned not because he mistreated Lazarus or made his wealth through ill-gotten means. He was plainly indifferent to the poor man’s plight.
On April 12, 1999, Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned humanitarian and author spoke about "The Perils of Indifference":
What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means "no difference." A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil. Of course, indifference can be tempting—more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes… Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end… The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees—not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.
God is not indifferent. He cares. The death of Jesus is the ultimate proof that God cares. He is not sitting up there in the heavens, oblivious of our plight. He comes down and becomes one of us. He identifies with us in everything except sin.
We are sons and daughters of God. We are brothers and sisters in Jesus. We belong to one family. We cannot be indifferent. We care.
May our compassionate God give us a heart that cares for all of humanity!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...