Thursday, May 9, 2024

Proof of Life: Hostage-Taking Is Not A Game

In light of the current hostage situation in Gaza, still relevant.

Yesterday I was listening to a documentary about kidnapping and hostage-taking on National Public Radio. At one time Colombia led the world in number of hostages being held for ransom. If I heard correctly the program said there were 3,000 hostages being held by the FARC or the rebels at any one time at its peak ten or fifteen years ago. (Somalia, I believe, is now the leader in this enterprise.)

In fact, there were so many hostages held that a radio station in Bogota created a radio program that aired on Sunday afternoons for the purpose of transmitting messages from loved ones whose husbands (usually) were missing. Wives would tell their husbands that they were loved, that they looked forward to seeing them again, that sons and daughters were starting school next week or graduating, etc.

One of the reasons many hostages don’t make it is that they lose hope of ever getting out. As a result, they do not exercise or take care of themselves. This attitude leads to self-destruction when in reality the hostages-takers have it as their aim to keep them alive because they are only worth money alive. This is a ransom situation.

To get someone returned a price must be paid. But the person paying that ransom wants proof of life first. Why give a million dollars for a dead man? Proof of life may consist of videos, tapes, letters… evidences that the captive is still there. At least this is the way it works in the hostage business.

As an aside here, it’s interesting the Bible talks about the human race as being hostages, that God sent his son, Jesus, as the ransom to get us back. One difference between that story and this is that in the Paul’s letter to the Ephesians God did this ransom transaction knowing we were dead. That is, we were “dead to God” or spiritually separated from life, which in the Biblical story began with being banished from Paradise or Eden where the "tree of life" was situated. This is a very unusual notion but a central concept related to the “good news” that Christianity was originally all about. (Interestingly enough, the hero in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy* is named Ransom.)

But as I listened to yesterday’s program and thought about it my mind latched on to this phrase “proof of life” but I wanted to apply it in a different way. What is the evidence we bring to this world that we are alive? After we’re gone, what have we left behind that proves we have lived? Certainly our children are a legacy. Do my writings count? My art? How about our acts of selflessness?

What are the proofs that you are alive? What proofs will you leave that you have lived?

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