The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda chronicles the genocide that took place in Rwanda, Africa, in 1994. Three months of bloodshed in Rwanda resulted in over one million deaths in the very small country, , but the rest of the world hardly took notice.
Part of the problem was that the international community was very careful not to use the word genocide when talking about what was going on in Rwanda. Genocide is murder of a whole population of people based on religion or race or ethnicity. And if genocide is occurring, the international community through international law has a legal responsibility to get involved.
But why didn’t people want to intervene in Rwanda? How could the world sit silently by as one million were killed? That’s a hard question to answer.
But world leaders definitely did not see Rwanda as their problem. They didn’t want to get involved. And they sought ways to free them from their legal obligation to intervene, even if they could not avoid their moral and ethical obligation to act.
When are we obligated to act? When must we get involved? That seems to be the true question that comes up in the gospel lesson of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, posed by the lawyer. When must we get involved?
The road to Jericho from Jerusalem was a dangerous road to travel.. It was a road where many people experienced violence and crime – being robbed on the road to Jericho wouldn’t have been uncommon.
The road to Jericho wasn’t unlike places today – places where you’re wise enough not to go alone, at night, or probably even with other people if you can avoid it.
And we know places across the world that are Jericho Roads – in fact, today, most of us would not dare to travel to some African countries, Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or North Korea. The Jericho Road is Syria, Zimbabwi. It is Rwanda in 1994. We know what the Jericho Road is, without ever having been there.
The Jericho Road is any place where there is violence; it is any place where there is oppression; it is any place where people are robbed of the dignity and robbed of their love and robbed of their food and robbed of their freedom.
The Jericho Road is always with us.
Jesus’ parable tells us that what lies between God and us is the Jericho Road. If we want to be in a relationship with God, if we want to be disciples, if we want to inherit eternal life, we need to work out what and who is between us and God.
We need to love our neighbours. And we need to understand that between God and us we will find every other human being. Between God and us is every other person in this community. Between God and us is every person in every part of this town, It is every person in Iraq, North Korea, and Rwanda, each one created in God’s image. Between God and us is the road to Jericho, lined with the ones Christ calls our neighbours, lined with the ones God calls us to love.
Who is my neighbour? Who are we called to risk for? Jesus asked, “which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”