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The Better Angels of Our Nature Appeared for a Week

The week of Sept. 21 was the week that the better angels of our nature were visibly – personally, corporately, globally – initiated by different houses in the faith community.

Cliff Vaughn, EthicsDaily.com’s media producer, and I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to do video interviews with Christian Reformed Church missionaries to Nigeria, who witnessed the genocide by the Hausa tribe against the Igbo tribe in 1966.

Harvey Kiekhover, Herman and Helen Scholten, Linda Scholten Morrow and Lee Baas shared what they witnessed, but even more remarkable, they shared what they did to save lives of Igbos.

We learned that with the help of the Christians in the Tiv tribe, Herman Scholten took a dozen trips from Mkar to Eunugu across two-track back roads to avoid military checkpoints. He carried in his flatbed truck hundreds of Igbos to safety in Eunugu.

Another missionary, Lee Baas, managed to squeeze a dozen Igbos into his small Opel and drive them from Zaki-Biam to the Cameroon border.

Harvey Kiekover recalled a Tiv Christian, Linus, who escorted Oko, an Igbo employee, around a dangerous zone to the safety of the train station for a trip to the Eastern section of Nigeria, his homeland.

He shared how they would shelter injured Igbos at the mission station in Makurdi before arranging truck transportation to save their lives.

These CRC missionaries were transparent about personally painful events about which they have rarely shared publicly, and they did so with two, relatively unknown Baptists.

They helped us tell one of the most inspiring untold stories about the 20th century mission enterprise.

On the first day we were in Grand Rapids, across the country interfaith leaders gathered at the National Press Club in Washington to pledge an end to hunger by 2030.

Sixty-seven faith leaders signed the statement. I was one of the signatories. It represented yet another sign that faith leaders of goodwill seek to collaborate for the common good on issues around which they agree and an issue which they believe is both doable and faithful to their sacred texts.

Back in Texas, Don Sewell, director of Faith in Action Initiatives (FIA) at Baylor Scott and White Health, was arranging a 737 plane of medical supplies and equipment to go to Syrian refugees in Hungary via Hungarian Baptist Aid. The plane was made possible by the generosity of Ross Jr. and Sarah Perot.

The supplies arrived on Saturday, Sept. 26.

At the same time Sewell was working on the logistics of the delivery, David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans was penning a column critiquing the Hungarian prime minister’s justifying a razor-wire fence to protect the Christian culture from Muslim refugees.

“The razor-wire solution for protecting Christianity is offensive and absurd. What people truly need from their government is freedom to worship as they see fit, not razor-wired protection from other religions,” wrote Crosby, who called for treating refugees with dignity and care.

Transcending all these mustard-seed initiatives was Pope Francis’ inspiring trip to the United States.

John L. Allen Jr., associate editor for Crux, a Catholic publication, rightly noted that it was too early to assess the impact of Pope Francis’ trip.

We can conclude, however, that Pope Francis drew huge crowds, framed the Christian faith in a way that transcended the political ideology of the right and left, combined piety and social justice, and modeled a humility that is missing from too many faith and civic leaders.

He also commandeered media coverage. For almost one week, our TV screens and newspapers had a positive word about collaborative, constructive faith, replacing the drone of stories about divisive, partisan, name-calling meanness.

Yes, the better angels of our nature were apparent for a week.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.