Monday, 18 January 2016

Ken and Jocelyn Elliot

have spent most of their adult lives working in Burkina Faso. They're Christian missionary doctors. A few days ago they were kidnapped by Muslim extremists and it is thought they are probably now over the border in Mali where there will be a ransom demand.
Australia is involved this time because they are still Australian citizens.
I don't know the Elliots but I do know other people working in similar places. I don't know them because of their "Christian missionary" efforts but because they are doctors, nurses, teachers and other workers who have given up time and income to try and help. 
There was a doctor working in the children's hospital here. He has now moved on. He isn't married and perhaps it was just as well because when he takes his annual leave he spends three weeks working in Africa - and the fourth "asleep on the beach". He has been going backwards and forwards for years - at his own expense.  In the past few years the locals have built a place for him to sleep in. He doesn't use it much. 
Where he goes it is dangerous. Everyone knows that. They provide a guard for him. I don't know how much good it would do and neither does he - but they do it. 
I have written communication boards for him. There has never been any mention of religion on them. I don't think he has any religious beliefs at all, just a belief in the worth of other people.
I know a good many more people like him too. I have felt uneasy about the motives of a few but most of them have a  simple desire to help. Not all of them are aware of the situation into which they are going or how difficult it is likely to be. They do know they will be there for only a short time. 
     "I can put up with it for six weeks/three months," they tell me. Most of them do. Some go back too or go somewhere else.  They will go where it is felt they are needed. They will go because "word of mouth" has sent their reputation ahead of them.
One of the doctors I have written communication boards for was in a remote hospital recently. It was evening. He was still working. A group of armed men arrived with another who had been shot.
They held the doctor at gunpoint demanding that he treat the injured man.
His response  - in their language - was, "Put your guns down. It is my duty to help."
It has done his reputation there no harm but it has made him, his colleagues - and me - all more aware of the dangers in that part of the world.
There will be people here who will say of the Eliots things like, "Why do they bother?" or "Well, they shouldn't go to places like that" and "it's their own fault for trying to convert people". 
I hope they find the Eliots and bring them back safely without the need to pay a ransom. I am not interested in their "Christian" activities. I am interested in their attempts to help people in other ways, in the hospital they have built from nothing.
My personal belief is that other people's beliefs are their personal affairs. They go where they choose to go or where others ask them to go. 
Why do they bother though? I can answer that I think. It's one of the things which makes us human. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your last sentence sums it up.

Yes, I think they are crazy to still be there, but they are caring humans doing what they can to help despite the dangers.