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Experiencing the Darkness: Shedding light on a gloomy world

JACKSON, Tenn.Nov. 29, 2001 – Seven-year-old Samina Bibi from Afghanistan screams in agony as the pain of a recent bombing burns through her tiny body as she lies on the hard surface of a makeshift hospital cot. As this image of Samina is a painful witness to, poverty and injustice know no bounds. They do not discriminate, are not prejudiced, and show no favoritism. They do not ask if you are black or white, young or old, Christian or Islamic. They ask only if you are human and whether or not you are surrounded by a people with cold enough hearts to keep you in their grasp.

Paul Monroe (center of picture) a sophomore business major from Conroe, Texas, fills out a welfare application to experience what it's like to apply for public assistance.

Paul Monroe (center of picture) a sophomore business major from Conroe, Texas, fills out a welfare application to experience what it's like to apply for public assistance.

Recently Union University’s Department of Sociology and Social Work hosted a display of the widespread poverty and injustice in the world today titled Experiencing the Darkness. Constructed of black garbage bags layered to form walls, the dark tunnel consisted of five stations, each specifically designed to show Americans the reality of a person that experiences oppression and hunger on a daily basis that most struggle to comprehend, using photos and images like the one of Samina, the little Afghan girl. From war-torn Bosnia and Afghanistan to hunger plagued Honduras and India and into the very center of student‘s homes - Jackson, Tenn. - the pain, starvation, oppression, and hatred were researched and communicated to students on campus through the efforts of a class of senior social work majors assisted by the university’s chapter of the International Justice Mission.

“The goal was to make students aware that we are the minority in the United States with what we have,” said Kristin Darnell, a senior social work major from Fairview, Tenn. Their goal was met with astounding success as hundreds of students visited throughout the day, entering the twenty five foot enclosed tunnel display chatting cheerfully with friends on their way to lunch and leaving solemnly, thankful for what they were about to eat.

“It makes me want to go and help people because I realize that there is poverty even in Jackson Tenn., and that is something that’s hard to have to realize,” said Becky Wilson, a junior psychology major from Benton, Ky.

Students were forced to consider that every day in Afghanistan at least four children are killed and another four injured by landmines left over from previous war; that women are beaten by the Taliban police for “law infractions” such as showing their ankles, walking too quickly, or wearing the wrong color of shoes, and that children as young as eight years old are forced into prostitution at the ruthless hand of starvation. And as students did so, the concerns with tomorrow’s class and next week’s sorority function seemed to fade into triviality.

However, in response to Jesus’ command to meet a need when it is recognized, students were given numerous opportunities to contribute time and necessary funds to ease the suffering of the underprivileged worldwide. Several community service and outreach efforts were represented including a Christmas card booth, whose profits were supporting organizations such as the Heifer International Project, UNICEF, SASW, and other area relief ministries to benefit the poverty stricken families of Jackson.

Above all else, the social work students and International Justice Mission encouraged students to pray.

“It is a very important issue that affects us whether we know it or not,” said Darnell, “Students need to know what is going on outside their backyards because it opens their eyes to the things that God is doing through people around the world. He calls all of us to be involved.”

To many students on the campus of Union University, a haphazard “will work for food” sign will now carry new magnitude and register new application. The marquee scripture verse for this experience of the world’s darkness was Matthew 25:40. “The King will reply, ’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Perhaps Helmut Theilicke, renowned German preacher of the late 1800’s, summarized it best - “Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellow men and I will tell you how much you have loved them.”

Josh Howerton, a native of Bowling Green, Ky., is a freshman Christian ethics major at Union University.

By Josh Howerton, Special Union Today Contributor

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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