Saturday, March 28, 2009

Taken: Yet Another Realization.

Taken, a movie directed by Pierre Morel, and starring Liam Neeson, tells the [fictional, yet realistic] story of a "retired" spy, Bryan Mills, who turns to his former skills in order to save his daughter, Kim, who has been captured and sold into the slave trade throughout Europe. Earlier in the years of his only marriage, from which his daughter was born, he devoted himself to become a "preventer," or a spy, in order to prevent innocent people from being afflicted with danger. This new found devotion basically brought an end to his marriage. It was his life; his new life, at the time. In turn, he spent a large fragment of his daughter's life separated from her. After he retired, he moved closer to his daughter so he could "make up for lost time." His daughter, at the time, was seventeen and lived with her mother and step-father, and they were very wealthy. Her life had changed greatly since her father had been around. 
Bryan Mills loved his daughter beyond comprehension; and little did anyone know, he kept up with every moment he had missed. 
As the story continued, Bryan Mills visited his daughter's extravagant seventeenth birthday party, which was thrown by her mother and step-father. He got her a karaoke stereo, because he remembered that she had always wanted to be a singer. Almost everyday he would go into that particular store and look at that stereo. Finally, he bought it, wrapped it, and presented it to her. It was the best thing he could afford, and he was sure she'd love it. She was surprised and excited at the moment she received the gift, however, when her rich step-father brought out yet another stunning gift, as if he hadn't done enough already, Kim, the daughter, was immediately distracted by this more formidable gift, and she turned and ran for it, leaving her father alone. 
Oh how he missed her. 
Later, his friends invited him to join them on a security job for an immensely popular singer. While he was there, his daughter called him and invited him to lunch; just the two of them. The next day, he arrived at the designated spot and waited, only to find that she brought her mother, his ex-wife, along. He soon found out that the only reason she came was so that he could legally approve her to go on a trip to Europe. It seemed as though she used him. He thought he would get to spend a moment with his true love, his heart, his daughter, for the first time in years. He thought she cared. 
After much debate, he signed the legal form. Her mother had chewed him to pieces, verbally, of course, because he had doubted the whole idea. He changed his mind in order to make his daughter happy. However, he had been mislead by his daughter and her mother; and due to his lack of knowledge, he thought she was only going to spend her time in Paris, along with a group of other girls. As they arrived at the airport, Bryan discovered her true plans. She was traveling to multiple cities in order to follow a rock band. After a great amount of turmoil had erupted and set for a brief moment, he allowed her to proceed. Her mother had assured him that their daughter would be perfectly safe. 
Bryan Mills took a final picture of his daughter as she was departing. That was the last time he would see her face as it was. 
Kim and Amanda, the friend she was traveling with, eventually arrived in Paris. As they were leaving the airport, they met a charismatic young man who charmed them completely. He asked if they'd like to share a cab in order to save money, and they accepted the offer. They rode, and finally got dropped at the same place- the apartment Kim and Amanda were staying at. The young man kept charming them, and he finally asked them where they were staying and if he could pick them up for a "cool" party that night. They told him and foolishly accepted. 
When Kim arrived at the apartment, she discovered that the people her and Amanda were supposed to meet weren't there. Amanda knew this already, but she had ignorantly kept it from everyone else. In fact, Amanda was the one making the initial stupid decisions, and Kim allowed it. After they got comfortable in the place, Amanda began blasting music and acting like a crazy alcoholic. Kim refrained, and soon answered a call from her father. He had previously told her to call him so he could check on her; she didn't call. As they were talking, she was in a bathroom that looked into the living room across a courtyard space between the apartment complex. Suddenly, she saw three of four men dressed in black assault Amanda and take her. She frantically explained the occurrence to her father as it was happening before her eyes. He told her to go hide under the bed in the next bedroom. Following those instructions were yet another set of heart-wrenching instructions. Once she was hidden, he told her that she would be taken. He needed information on the monsters so he could attempt to track them down and find her. This was when his skills came into play. He cautiously instructed her to leave the phone on and describe how they looked as she was being apprehended. Just in time, he heard footsteps, so did she. Three men entered the room and talked; two then left. She didn't know there had been three, so as soon as the two left, she said, "They're gone." This was followed by her blood curdling screams. Someone pulled her out of under the bed- the third man. After he apprehended her, he picked up the phone. Bryan Mills had just heard his daughter as she was experiencing the one absolute horror of her life, and he was not about to let this go. Bryan knew the man was still in the phone; he heard his deep, disgusting breathing. This is where Bryan Mills gave his warning: "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you." Marko, the man who had been the initial nightmare of Kim, answered, "Good luck."
Bryan Mills immediately began working to get his daughter back in his arms. First, he gained intelligence; he discovered the identities of the men who brought this upon his baby. Then, he made his move. He left for France and began hunting. He retraced his daughter's steps. He acquired help from a local "friend." As the story went on, he continued to fight ruthlessly to save his child.
Throughout the latter part of the movie, he  exposed and brought down the inhumane idiots who ran the operation. Many women were shown. They were all completely deprived of their humanity. Some bed-ridden and ill because they had been unceasingly raped, over and over again. They had all been brainwashed into this worthless way of thinking. They had been unwillingly forced into prostitution, with no way out. Either they were on the streets, trying to lure some pervert in, or they were lying there, as prisoners, awaiting the next beating on their feeble bodies. The sights presented in this movie are horrific, but true. The women are pale, limp, and exhausted, physically and mentally. 
In the end, Bryan Mills found his daughter. 
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I say all this to make a point. Sex trafficking is real. Everyday, women are captured and the peaceful lives they once knew are ended. Women are completely deprived of their rights and humanity; they are considered tools used for business. Everyday, their bodies are beaten upon and their souls are torn. Everyday, some finally give out and die; but others come along just to take the empty places. It never ceases. 
This was an overwhelming realization of mine as I watched this movie. It is unbelievable to even attempt to comprehend all the horrid, unimaginable horrors and evils that are present in our world today. This movie, although harsh, is great, because it reveals the truth to a massive audience. People need to know the truth. The fact is, too many humans surround themselves with this "bubble;" and everything in it is positive and, well, ignorant. Everyone needs to know what occurs in their world. I believe it is every Christian's responsibility to help stop it. How could someone see these atrocities and not feel guilty for not giving any help, hope or intervention? It is appalling. Anyone can help. A child could help by raising awareness! It is so easy. All that is required is a little bit of selflessness. That is what we all need anyhow. That is compassion; and that is what can change the world.
Another thing that hit me hard, was the whole concept that Bryan Mills loved his daughter beyond compare. He did all he could for her, literally. That is love; and that is what we all need. 

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9

-Jonathan

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Genocide: Rwanda, and the World.


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Genocide, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group; or, simply, the mass murder of a people group because they are different. In other terms, it is the killing, annihilation, extermination, eradication, and butchery of human beings. The Bible, in Exodus 20:13, clearly states that we are not to murder. I believe it is entirely impossible for any one person to successfully determine a reasonable explanation for why any human being would carry out such atrocities. It is evil; pure evil that cannot be explained. Genocide can cause an immense weakening or complete downfall of a nation. It can lead to a corrupt government, which, in turn, leads to an overall corrupted country or group. Those who carry it out intend to, as previously stated, wipe out an entire ethnic group. This is known as ethnic cleansing. The motive is usually derived from hatred and conflict that has been established throughout the history of a nation or people group. Let’s take Rwanda for instance. The land in which one of the largest, most infamous displays of evil took place.

Rwanda is a small nation, significantly smaller than Maryland, that is made up of about 10,190,000 people. It is located in Central Africa between Uganda and Burundi, and is bordered by Lake Kivu to its east. The country was initially occupied by the Twa people, who currently make up one percent of the population, the Hutu people, who currently make up eighty-four percent of the population, and the Tutsi people, who currently make up fifteen percent of the population. These groups divided the land into small states and therefore expanded it. This all took place in context of the fifteenth century. Then, in a conference that took place in Brussels, Belgium in 1890, an agreement was reached that divided the land of this area and gave it to mostly European nations that wanted to colonize Africa for trade. Rwanda, along with Burundi, was given to the German Empire. However, the use of poor maps in this case resulted in misunderstood claims, and the Belgians were left with the Western half of the land. In 1900, the official borders were set due to much conflict throughout the few years following the colonization. Before the Belgian colonization, and during the German colonization, the Tutsis were put in charge over the Hutus. This is because they were considered to be more European than the Hutus and the Germans favored the Tutsis physical appearance and overall personalities above those of the Hutus. In World War One, the Belgians forced the Germans out of the region. After the war, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and Burundi to the Belgians; and the nation became known as Ruanda-Urundi. The Belgians turned to the German way of ruling that split the two groups and put the Tutsi in charge. They established newer and more violent policies and laws that further divided this once peaceful relationship between brothers. To make matters worse, European scientists came to investigate the differences between the two groups. They concurred that the Tutsis had larger skulls, thinner noses, and lighter skin, which caused them to believe that they were ancestors of Caucasians. Therefore, the Tutsis, as the European colonists believed, were the superior race in Rwanda. Later, the ethnicity was made official, and every person was assigned an identification card. During the time period of World War Two, the ruling Tutsis began to reestablish policies. This gave the Hutus a more liberated sense of independence. This period sparked the beginning of a complete future of ethnic tensions between these two ethnic groups. Although they are said to be different, they are basically the same. Many are intertwined into families and many do not notice their differences. They are all human beings, equal on the inside, despite a few unnoticeable differences presented on the outside. Many cannot tell themselves apart from others; and that is why these identification cards were issued.

Now, the history of Rwanda is vital to understanding the reasoning behind its 1994 genocide. The years following the corrupt ruling and policies of the colonial period were full of strife and conflict. Finally, in 1994, following civil war, the ethnic tensions began to elevate relentlessly. Little did anyone know, this was going to be the beginning of a genocide that stole the lives of one eighth of the small country’s entire population. As tensions rose, the Hutus began to raise awareness of the evil Tutsis plans, which were actually not evil at all. The Hutus were the evil possessed ones in this case. The Hutus had a radio broadcasting station called RTLM. This station featured Hutu and Belgian extremists and racists who spread the message that began the hatred that sparked the killings. The Interahamwe militia, which was a Hutu extremist group, spread a secret message to its collaborators- “cut the tall trees.” It referred to the Tutsi, who were supposedly taller; and it was a message that, when given, called for the extermination of the Tutsis to begin. 

On April 6, 1994, a plane was leaving Kigali, Rwanda’s airport. The plane contained Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana, and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira. The plane was shot down by a single-manned missile. The Hutus blamed this action on the Tutsis. However, it is strongly believed that it was actually done by the Hutu Interahamwe militia just to have a reasonable excuse to violently retaliate. Soon after, a message was sent out. It was a message that would forever change the course of history. “Cut the tall trees. Now.” It followed the announcement and false accusation concerning the President’s murder. Immediately after, the hatred began to express itself throughout the entire nation. Brother turned on brother, and friend on friend. Human beings lost their sanity and turned into pure evil. This brought upon the depravity of a whole people group. They were degraded into dirt and treated as animals. Some Hutus called them cockroaches, and therefore their existence was an infestation; they were to be slaughtered as cockroaches and exterminated. Countless inhumane and savage tortures were brought upon countless human beings; human beings who had their own separate lives; human beings who had feelings; human beings who felt distress, happiness, sadness, longing and misery; human beings just like you and me. These were human beings who were hated beyond measure. Their existence was inconceivably intolerable to an immense group of ill monsters. Those Hutus who hated the innocent Tutsis unceasingly inflicted death upon their lives and their worlds. They would walk the streets proudly wielding machetes, ready to slaughter or decapitate any fleeing Tutsi civilian around them. These people’s cries of pain and distress did not even phase the killers, for they had been brainwashed into thinking hatred was the right way out. They would raid homes, steal possessions and throw the elderly and defenseless into rocks and off of cliffs. They would rape women, and literally tear them apart. They targeted the children in order to wipe out the next generations. They would raid churches and pound infants against the walls and ground, and then bombard the praying crowd with grenades. Even when the women were holding precious life within them, the killers would ruthlessly bring both lives to an end by searing the wombs open, which deprived the child of its homeostatic, internal environment that it needed for survival. This went on for 100 days, from April 6, 1994 to July 4, 1994, until the genocide came to an end. The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), which was made up of the Tutsi rebels and headed by Paul Kagame, the current President, finally took Kigali, the capital, and pushed the Hutu army and militia out of the area. 

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 claimed 800,000 or more irreplaceable lives in 100 days. This amount of human beings and their separate and special individual lives is impossible to comprehend. That is 8,000 lives a day; more than 5 lives per minute. This is one eighth of the population of Rwanda. Can this be grasped by the mind of any human? It is unbelievable, inconceivable, unrealistic and entirely evil. The satan lead demons nearly accomplished their goal, which was to wipe out the Tutsi population. The genocide left a struggling nation in it's tracks. It left the stench of decaying bodies, which were strewn across the whole land. It left hopelessness.

 The United Nations under Kofi Annan and the United States of America under Bill Clinton drastically failed to make any positive effect on the constantly deteriorating situation. The United Nations ended up withdrawing all but 300 troops for the whole country, and they weren’t allowed to shoot, even is defense of an individual; only in defense of themselves. If a Hutu extremist with a machete walked up to a Tutsi right in front of a United Nations Belgian soldier and chopped him or her, the soldier would not be cleared to defend that individual. Bill Clinton refused to even intervene in the mass murder. All he and the French “intervention” force did was get the whites, Americans and Europeans, out of the danger. None of these provided any lasting hope or help for Rwanda. However, there are quite a few heroic stories that defy these others. For instance, General Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the United Nations forces in Rwanda at the time, disobeyed his orders given by his authority. He disobeyed in order to save lives. This was brought on after he attended a peace talk, or meeting, with an Interahamwe official. The official had just returned from his daily rounds of slaughter, and he had innocent blood on his shirt. Another example is that of Paul Rusesabagina, the manager at the Hotel Des Milles Collines during this time. He sheltered and saved the lives of 1,268 individuals by opening his doors and making immense sacrifices. 

The reality is, atrocities such as this occur all around the world. The Holocaust, extermination of millions of Jews by Hitler, the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians, Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, and the massacres at Srebrenica are all past examples. However, these also occur today. Places such as Darfur, Sudan, the Balkans, Chechnya, Northern Uganda, Georgia, and the Middle East and others are all experiencing overwhelming conflict and loss of peace. Imagine yourself in a situation such as this. You can’t. But you know it is full of unimaginable pain and suffering. We need to help these people. 


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9. There will always be good that arises in times of evil. God always prevails. 


-Jonathan.