The Call of Conscience

December 18, 20121 Comment

I should get this out of the way at the beginning: I have a lot of opinions. I come from a long line of opinionated people. I have ideas about the way the world is and how it ought to be–about faith and politics and law and justice, about morality and relationships, about speed limits and scrambled eggs and how tall the Christmas tree should be.

But on the best of days I see the world through a clouded lens. My perspective is limited, skewed by my history, my cultural perceptions, my personality and my biases, innate and acquired. At the end of the day, what really matters is not my opinion of the world. What matters is the truth about reality–the level ground on which all of us stand.

Of course, there are as many views of the truth as there are dimensions to it. It is rare for any question in life to have a black and white answer, especially the hard questions. Even the truths we hold sacred are culturally situated and personally interpreted. Yet the world is. And I am. And you are. And we think and feel and see and try our best to make sense of things. We love and relate and learn and work and reproduce and recreate and age and ponder, and in time we die, hopefully in peace with God and man.

These are the elements of the human story. There are countless ways to live and things to care about in this vast (yet shrinking) world, but all of us, as human beings, share at least this much, regardless of race, culture, nationality, and creed.

We have another thing in common: conscience. It’s built into our DNA, our basic sense of right and wrong, the importance of justice and fairness, the inherent dignity of our lives. We can sharpen our conscience with practice or allow it to be blunted over time. But it is there at the beginning. I see it in my children, in your children. Its presence raises two questions that all of us must grapple with: Will we honor its call, even when it costs us? And will we stand up for it when the right and the good are violated?

I wrote A Walk Across the Sun because my conscience compelled me to. I had to do something about the fact that pimps and traffickers around the world are profiting to the tune of $30-40 billion annually by forcing women and children to prostitute themselves. In the past year since the book released, I have accepted every speaking invitation I have received, often paying my own expenses, to spread awareness about this horrific crime, and–critically–to compel action.

It is not enough that we know the truth about the injustice that pervades our world. Conscience demands that we act.

The same is true of my forthcoming book, The Garden of Burning Sand. When I learned that 4 in 5 children with intellectual disabilities in Southern Africa die before the age of 5,  and that many of the girls who survive are sexually assaulted by men with impunity, I felt compelled to tell their story. In the same way, when I learned that the U.S. and other Western governments have been scaling back their commitment to AIDS relief at the same time that researchers have proven that widespread preventative antiretroviral treatment could eliminate the transmission of HIV in a generation, I had to do something about it. For me, doing something means taking up my pen and writing.

So here I am, starting a blog. On this page, I intend to talk about issues of justice and human rights. I intend to air some of my opinions and invite you into dialogue. If I have learned anything from my travels around the world, it is how much all of you have to teach me. This page is not for ideologues, partisans, nationalists, or nativists. It is for people of goodwill interested in reasoning together, and then acting, to create a better world for ourselves and our kids. It is for people who believe that change is possible, that hope is real, but that it is our obligation–indeed, our privilege–to be the change we wish to see in the world.

So read, reflect, react, challenge me, sharpen each other, but, please, do so with generosity and humility, remembering that in spite of our many differences and the distances that separate us, we are all made of the same earth and clay. The same blood runs through our veins. We are brothers and sisters.

I invite you to join me in the journey.

One Response to “The Call of Conscience”

  1. Janice Albert

    I loved your book and it prompted me to do some volunteer work for the Ricky Martin Foundation here in Puerto Rico. Thank you and God bless…

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