Today, nearly all of the minority Uzbek people of Kyrgyzstan are returning home.
As many as 100,000 refugees fled the country into Uzbekistan in the past week following violent conflict against them from the majority Kyrgyz population. An additional 300,000 people are said to be displaced within Kyrgyzstan.
Stories began coming out of the country on June 11: homes and shops were being looted and burned to the ground.
Soon the tensions became even more violent. According to witnesses, Uzbek women and children became targets of widespread rape and murder. Uzbek men were being burned alive.
As hundreds of thousands of people began fleeing into Uzbekistan, the neighboring country closed its border. But officials say the violence has now ceased, and they have promised the refugees protection and aid in rebuilding their homes.
The attacks appear to be orchestrated in some way, and blame has been passed around from Islamists to a single criminal to outside groups to the U.S. government. The violence has been called everything from “riots” to “genocide.”
It is impossible to imagine the suffering of these Uzbek people. They have seen their families raped and killed, they have watched their homes and possessions burned, and they have run for their lives.
But after all of that, it is even more impossible to imagine them picking up their bags and returning “home.”
Home is a place with food and a roof, a place with family and a bed. Many Americans might argue that home also includes scented candles, baked desserts, and a place where the kids can play. I would add that home is a place where your next door neighbor doesn’t rape your wife and shoot your baby.
Today’s Kyrgyzstan is no such place.
These refugees are returning, many against their will, to a place called home, only to live in extreme fear and looming bitterness for the rest of their lives.
It happened in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide: families moved back and had to live together, next door to their tormentors. Home.
Today we pray for the spirits of these incredibly brave sojourners as they search for home. We pray for their protection and security within their borders. We pray that their physical and emotional wounds will heal quickly, and that they will learn to forgive as we never could.
We pray for their oppressors, that justice will be done and that the violence will cease. We pray that God will protect them from themselves and end their wrongdoing, that he would change their hearts and bring stability to their land.
May we look forward to the day when such atrocities are washed away and we can celebrate in glory with the many Uzbek and Kyrgyz people who, with us, look forward to that day this morning.
What do you add to this prayer for the Uzbek people?
Now that the United States has officially ended round 1 at the top of their group, they are set to play Ghana on Saturday. If you have time, check out the Vanguard documentary about soccer in Ghana before watching the game.