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Over the years, the America of my experience has become more and more open, to the point where very little seems shocking. We have noticed it in almost every book, magazine, TV show, movie and especially in news stories. All of these, ever seeking to gain more attention, continue to ratchet up the level of profane language, violence, nudity and sexuality.

 

Some of it has had no higher purpose than to be merely provocative or offensive. Some of it has actually helped our society become more authentic and honest, bringing topics to the surface that previously might have been quickly dismissed or flat-out denied.

 

Even so, there seems to be one issue so heinous and unconscionable that few are willing to touch it, though it is described as a problem that has reached epidemic proportions. It is the living hell of physical torture, rape and sexual violence faced by women and children as victims of war and its aftermath in places such as Liberia and the Sudan.

 

In some cases, children as young as 2 and 3 years old have been the victims of these unspeakable acts. But as terrible and truly shocking as these stories and others like them are, they cannot be condoned and therefore, we should not and cannot be silent. As epidemiologist Tara Smith writes, “Silence (itself) is the enemy.”

 

Admittedly, there are lots of pressing issues to address. Most of them divide people of good will by offering opposing solutions or possible remedies. But how can anyone suggest that there are two sides to these abuses? Who would even dare to raise a voice to validate or defend such atrocities?

 

The lack of any sensible response clearly identifies why such tolerance for such acts is still able to even exist. It’s when the victims are too fearful to speak and the potential helpers are too callous or indifferent to speak out in their defense.

 

In the Darfur region, an excellent resource has been developed by Physicians for Human Rights. Working primarily with refugees, they are helping tell the story of the forgotten and are raising the awareness of the world to this dire situation of human need.

 

There’s plenty we can do. Talk and pray about these issues. Speak to those you know in the medical community and share this information with them. Educate others in your congregation. Give your money. Speak to your political representatives. Sign this petition now circulating on Facebook. Be an advocate for women’s rights and social justice.

 

There’s just one thing we should not and cannot do, and that is to remain silent.

 

Mark Johnson is senior minister at Central Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

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