Jesus said, "For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn't destroy you. If
you walk in darkness, you don't know where you're going. 36As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will
be within you, and shining through your lives. You'll be children of light."
Aisha Parveen doesn't matter. She's simply one more impoverished girl from the countryside, and if her brothel's owner goes
ahead and kills her, almost no one will care.
So begins a column by New York Times columnist NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF.
Kristof special emphasis has often been life in 3rd world or the developing countries.
He is a modern day voice crying in the wilderness… pointing to the poorest communities in Asia and Africa… communities
that are often ravaged by disease and war.
Kristof has been one of the voices that raised the genocide in the Darfar region of Sudan that the UN and our government are
starting to make noises about stopping it.
Lately he has been raising issues about how women are treated in countries in Asia.
His article this Sunday concerned the young woman I mentioned at the beginning.
Aisha Parveen is a 20 year old Pakistani woman who has been breathing freely for 2 months after being enslaved in a brothel
for the past 6 years.
Her story… which is not very pretty… yet is one we need to pay attention.
Ms. Parveen was a 14-year-old Pashtun living in the northwest of Pakistan when she was hit on the head while walking to school.
She says she awoke to find herself imprisoned in a brothel hundreds of miles away, in this remote southeastern Pakistani town
A person of unbelievable strength, Ms. Parveen fought back and refused to sleep with customers. So, she says, the brothel
owner —beat and sexually tortured her, and regularly drugged her so that she would fall unconscious and customers could
do with her as they liked.
This went on for six years, during which she says she was beaten every day. The girls in the brothel were forced to sleep
naked at night, so that they would be too embarrassed to try to escape. Ms. Parveen says she believes that two of them, Malo
Jan and Suwa Tai, were killed after they repeatedly refused to sleep with customers. In any case condoms were never available,
so all the girls may eventually die of AIDS.
The horror has turned her new found freedom into a possible death sentence.
Aisha Parveen escaped… found a man who would protect her and who married her.
But the owner of the brothel has sound her and she is under house arrest with the real possibility that the courts will return
her to the brothel owner… who claims that he is her husband.
She has been charged with the crime of zina offenses under Islamic law.
Zina encompasses fornication and adultery, and accusations of zina are effective weapons against women.
Now I know at this point I have lost some of you and the rest of you who may be listening are wondering what this terrible
story about a Pakistani woman… however tragic her story may be…
what has this story have to do with John’s Gospel and Jesus’ foreshadowing his death.
Maybe not much. But maybe
a lot. I think it has to so with where we find God…
where God decides to glorify his Son. When Jesus says, “I'll say, "Father, put your
glory on display.'"
Putting God’s glory on display is a moment of incarnation… a moment when God becomes real and present and historical.
Jesus believed and told his disciples that it would be in his death… in his execution as a state criminal…
that he would be the instrument of God’s glory… God’s presence in the world.
More than that… it would be the moment when God would triumph over the powers of Rome and imperial authority. God’s
glory would shine not from a battlefield victory or the conversion of a million pagans to believers…
it would shine down from a hill
Would we really expect God to be glorified… to be present in any other way?
If we did… then we would not be very familiar with the Biblical God…
the God who shows up in mangers and on crosses. And just maybe in a mud filled hut in Northwest Pakistan.
You see… it just may be that the cry for justice and the lone fight of this 20 year old Pakistani kidnap escapee struggling
for justice is where God is being revealed. To be sure… in the grand scheme of things…
whether Aisha Parveen is allowed to live freely or whether she is returned to the brothel owner who kidnapped her will not
affect world peace nor probably have any effect on your life or mine.
Maybe it should. Maybe we ought to pay attention when any
young woman… Pakistani or American… fights back against abuse and slavery.
Maybe if we observed the little struggle that so many women fight to have dignity and safety… family and children.
We just might see God’s glory breaking through the darkness.
Jesus portrays the struggle in just that way… light and dark. For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by
the light you have so darkness doesn't destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don't know where you're going. 36As you have
the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You'll be children of
Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn't destroy you.
The darkness out there is vast and deep. And all too often these days the darkness is cast
upon a world where the poor and the infirmed and the aged become victimized by corporate might or vigilante justice masquerading
as patriotism or civil war.
The example of the plight of Aisha Parveen is bit a mere shadow of a darkness befalling women and girls in much of Asia.
According to a BBC report…it has been estimated that India has seen 10m female fetuses terminated in the past 20 years.
It is considered a disgrace for a mother to have a baby girl. They increase the family debt and bring disgrace.
Even Aisha Parveen believes such… as she is quoted saying, “"God should not give daughters to poor people," she
said in despair. "And if a daughter is born, God should grant her death."
Is there is a better example of Jesus’ words ... If you walk in darkness, you don't know where you're going? That there
could be such prejudice and fear for simply having a daughter is a darkness we here do not know and pray we will never know.
Yet those families share our planet… they like we are God’s children.
Yet they seem to us to not know the way because they are wandering in darkness.
Please know I am not sharing this because I feel superior to them.
Nor am I trying to guilt trip anyone into doing something about a situation we cannot effect.
There are enough personal issues in our own lives and political and community issues we can exert a lot or a little energy
I merely confess that I found an intersection between this story of a poor, frightened, young Pakistani woman…
and this story from John about Jesus talking about his death and how God was present and glorified in and by that death.
What I found was a living metaphor for the God’s ever present light in the midst of not just a cross
on Calvary but in a mud hut in Pakistan.
Perhaps the final lesson is to train ourselves how and where to see God’s glory…
to see where God’s light is pushing back the darkness. For if we cannot truly
see where darkness reigns in the world today…
then we will miss where God is dying again… where God’s glory is breaking through the darkness.