Friday, October 28, 2011

Cultural Complexities

One of the common stories that we reading and hearing about is the increasing level of rapes in Cambodia. Some of these occur because young men are watching pornographic videos and want to act out what they see. In other instances, we are hearing about difficult rape cases, where young girls are being raped by their fathers or relatives or people who live near their village communes.

One of the most difficult situations a young teenage girl has to deal with beyond the repeated rapes by her father is the fact that she is pregnant with a child from the rape. This has got to be one of the most difficult situations to comprehend and reconcile in one's mind. What are the thoughts that are flowing through this teenager's mind as she carries this baby to full term? How does she deal with the daily reminder that this pregnancy was borne not out of love but borne out of a violation against her soul? How does she deal with the shame, the guilt and the embarrassment? In this kind of environment, the girl is given the option of either giving up the baby for adoption or keeping it. The question that again came to my mind is how do you identify such a child who in effect has a half sister and mother in the same person-----I don't really understand how or what to call this baby. It is very confusing! But this is what evil does. This is what the darkness seeks to do---create confusion of God ordained family structures by totally messing them up. As the bible says, Satan seeks to kill, steal and destroy and in the visible reality it certainly seems that he is winning, but as always, he does not have the last word in these lives, God does. This is something we have to constantly remind ourselves---to keep claiming and standing on God's truth especially as we come across complex issues here.

But there are other complexities that such teenagers has to work through beyond the emotional, physical and mental trauma. In Cambodian culture as is the case in many Asian cultures,  family allegiance is so strong and the bond is so tight, that she also has to deal with external pressures. A young woman in this situation faces pressures from her father's relatives who want her to drop the charges and/or change her story and say that it is someone else who raped her. These are not easy decisions for an adult, how much more so for a 14 year old girl who is still a child herself and who is struggling to deal with her own emotional anguish. How does one advise such a young girl?

Seeking justice in the midst of such complexities is not as black and white as we in the West would like to believe. For a young woman in this situation has to work through the implications of her choices and the impact it will have not just on her life in the future, but the life of her family. She is caught between two worlds---facing a family that will ostracize her and further abandon and reject her,  if she chooses to stand for truth and maintain her story, or she can deny the truth to 'protect her father', preserve her family relationships and live with the internal turmoil that comes from such a choice.In Asian culture, where family honor and obligation is of utmost importance, one has to have much wisdom in navigating such complexities.

How can Christ enter into this picture to bring truth, healing and wholeness back to a life that is suffering much pain and living with such tension? It is not easy and Satan uses these cultural strongholds, to keep people in bondage. While each culture has good elements to it, there are many aspects to each of our cultures that need to be redeemed. This is one such example of how cultural norms associated with families can create further enslavement of the soul. But Jesus came to invade cultures and to bring about a new culture---a culture of honor, a culture of freedom and a culture of love that enables a person to live out of their true selves. When a cultural norm seeks to control its people responses through fear instead of love, through pressure instead of through freedom of choice, it cultivates an environment where individuals do not live out of their true selves but out of their 'false selves.' They are forced to conform to cultural obligations and expectations that suppresses the truth.

No wonder Jesus said that 'when we know the truth, the truth will set us free.' Until or unless a girl in this situation  becomes rooted in Christ and not in her family, she faces an uphill battle. For when we know that we are loved by God unconditionally, when we know that it is He who defines us and not our families, nor the cultures we live in, nor the painful experiences in our lives, when we know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, when we know that He is always for us, we have the courage and the hope to move forward despite the opposition.  These are easy words to share with a person who has never experienced such abuse and trauma like these girls have. But, it takes times for these truths to sink into a young girl whose life has been filled with a relentless attack of accusations and experiences that feed her belief that she has no value, she is of no worth and she is garbage.

This is why it is nothing short of a miracle from the Lord to transform such wounded souls. We know it is possible. We are seeing it in the story of Phally and other girls who are at Newsong as the Lord overrides their story with His story. We know that through the power of prayer as we intentionally devote ourselves to interceding on behalf of these young girls, as we ask the Lord to break off and tear down ungodly soul ties in families or cultural strongholds that limits a person's freedom,  the Holy Spirit can and is able to do the work of opening their eyes to see and experience the truth that in Christ---- they have value, they have dignity and they have worth so that a journey of healing and hope can begin.  Transformation is not some kind of wishful thinking, for in Christ, the impossible become the possible. But it involves ongoing commitment and investment in the lives of these young women. It is a journey of faith that God has called us to enter into as we seek to minister to these precious ones. He is asking each of us to walk not by sight but by faith as we believe and hold fast in the promises of God and are fully persuaded that He has power to do what he had promised. (Roman 4:21)

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