Trains and Beaches

By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!   (Psalm 137, NRSV translation)

Children should be playing on beaches. Children should be playing, and people should be swimming, and dogs should be catching frisbees. The sons of mothers should not die on beaches. Their bodies should not hug the shoreline as waves lap at them like an eternal blanket. 

Yet there they were, 70 years ago, scattered across the beaches of Normandy like seaweed washed up upon the shore. Mothers sons sent to fight and die.

Trains should be romantic. Children should squeal with joy as they look out of the windows and watch telephone poles fly by. Young couples should rock gently to sleep in romantic compartments as the trains clickity-clack through the night.  They should not be vehicles of death, carting hordes of the oppressed off the camps where they don’t want to go – camps where they will die.

Rail cars Auschwitz (2011)

Rail cars Auschwitz (2011)

Yet beyond the beaches where the sons of mothers lay dying those 70 years ago, trains full of mostly Jewish prisoners continued their grim journeys to the death camps and work camps of the Third Reich.

But so many more of those young men made it beyond the beach, and the war ended, and we cried, “Never Again!”  Never again would we allow a genocide. Never again would we allow the bashing of babies against rocks. Never again.

And yet. And yet. We have done it again. And again. And again.

Oh, perhaps we have not personally smashed babies, but make no mistake, when we make war, babies die. The sons of mothers.

And so this week we see new images of refugees on trains – being taken to camps where they do not wish to go, and being forced to remain, like cattle, in cramped quarters, because no one is wanting to take them in. And we have seen babies washed up on the shore. Babies have washed up on the shore because no country would give them harbor. Read more here

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept.

How long, O Lord? How long will we turn away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters?

Ever again and again. God cannot stop this until we do our part. God is weeping and waiting.

Click here to find out where to help.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.

DSC00221Monument at Treblinka (2011)

Addendum – 6 September, 2015 – The Pope has responded by calling on Catholic families in Europe to take in refugees.

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