suffering and social justice

Witnessing the recent protests, riots, economic troubles, and tremendous political divisions juxtaposed with a deep remembrance and sense of solidarity over the 1956 revolution, I’ve really been impacted by the basic human cries for freedom and justice.  With friends on both sides of the fence here, I’m certainly glad to be an outsider, to claim some level of ignorance, to be allowed a neutral standpoint on these tough issues.  Yet, living in Budapest as “outsiders” we have felt our hearts connecting in progressively deeper ways to the present and historical experiences of our Hungarian friends. 

The truth is that most Hungarians are suffering economically, living paycheck to paycheck, unemployment is rising fast and will continue to rise over the next couple years, and homelessness will become even more prevalent.  In light of all of this, our hearts are aching.  We have a mixture of feelings.  We live in a comfortable flat in northern Budapest where the air is a little cleaner than it is 5 miles to the south.  For this we can occassionally feel guilty.  Guilty because yesterday, while riding the train into the city-center, a homeless man in his 40’s sat down beside me, unshaven, smelling of alcohol and body odor, whereas I was wearing clean clothes, carrying my cool black bag, traveling to my next English lesson.  Is this just?

I’ve been deeply impacted by the remembrance of the 1956 revolution here in Budapest.  It was fifty years ago, yet most Hungarians, young and old, have a tremendous awareness and sense of identity with those freedom fighters who fought and died trying to reclaim their country.  The few weeks of fighting in 1956 were brutal for both Hungarians and Russians, and it is clear that this sort of experience changes a person, a people, and a culture.  Human history is indeed full of atrocity, but from where I stand, the human heart is not made for atrocity or these kinds of injustice.  Within the human heart there remains a hint, or an echo of something good, something that grates against suffering and social injustice, something that cries out for the well-being of others. 

If a 50 year old crushed revolution can have such a deep and lasting impression in the Hungarian soul, what are the effects of the many other injustices occuring around the world today?  Darfur for example (Thanks Tom for the link and helping me think about this).

I’m encouraged though, that one small action can have a meaningful impact, and possibly a ripple effect through a family, a community, or even a culture.  Some of you know of “Nexus” the non-governmental organization we have been developing over the last few months.  You’ll definitely hear more about this as time goes by.  Through Nexus, and with the brain and heart power of a few Hungarian friends, we are beginning to tackle injustice in a couple tangible ways.  I’m looking forward to writing about some hopeful and developing programs at a local orphanage where there are 62 kids, 65% Gypsie, many of whom will not find work and will become homeless when they graduate and leave. 

In spite of the current sharp ideological and political divisions here in Budapest, I sense a common drive for compassion, for social justice and for the common good.  It’s nothing new of course.  I think these are basic human thirsts which call out for a present and continual “revolution” of the heart.