Do Our Kids Need Moral Courage?

Posted on: June 1st, 2016 by Kay Swatkowski

swiss village

 

The Courage of Le Chambon

              In all of Europe, the mountain village of Le Chambon was known as the safest place for Jews. Driven from their homes, stripped of belongings and livelihoods, ridiculed and trembling with fear, thousands of Jewish men, women and children sought shelter in the homes of the Chambonnais. Shops, farms and even the local school became safe houses for God’s chosen people.

Convinced that all life is sacred and resolved in their decision to protect the Jewish people, the Huegenot Protestants of Chambon sur Lignon refused to submit to the cruelty and darkness surrounding them. Their defiance was demonstrated by opening the entire town to the persecuted.

Every village family was involved in hiding the Jews. Schools were prepared to receive newcomers and hide their identity. Farmers took on the arrivals as “workers.” Not one person was turned away.

When Nazi SS troops raided the town, the Jewish people escaped to the countryside. When the empty Nazi trucks rumbled out of town, the residents of Chambon sur Lignon would rush to the countryside where their Jewish friends were hiding, singing songs that signaled they could return to their places of safety.

The people of Le Chambon Sur Lignon made no attempt to conceal their sacred mission. Their activities were well know by the German occupying forces and French collaborators. In a courageous and defiant letter, the leaders of Le Chambon explained their moral position to the adversary.

Author, Malcom Gladlwell, describes the mindset of the French villagers as they interacted with authorities as,  “We have Jews. You are not getting them.”

The people of Le Chambon helped many of the refugees flee to Switzerland. Fake identity papers were created, names were changed, passports prepared and plans made to escort those in the village’s safekeeping through the hills to the border.

By the end of the war, this village of three thousand  had saved the equivalent of their own population. Most of the over three thousand who were saved were children. Not one person was lost.

Where did these farmers, shopkeepers, bakers, seamstresses, mothers and fathers find the moral courage and grit to face down the Vichy government and defy the Nazi terrorists?

Writing the introduction for Courage to Care, Elie Wiesel echoes these same thoughts as he reflects on other Europeans who had demonstrated compassion and care to the Jewish people.

Then, the author and survivor of Buchenwald poses this painful question,  “Above all – Why were there so few?”

I wonder, if our family had been the bakers of Le Chambon or farmers spending our days in the fields on the nearby hillsides, would I have welcomed a Jewish mother, father or child?  How would I have responded to the opportunity to save an innocent person at the risk of our family safety?

Would compassion have overcome my fear?

Would moral courage have given me the resolve I needed to do what was right?

In 1990,  Le Chambon was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations title by Israel. A small plaque honoring the village’s humanitarian efforts in the face of danger was placed in the garden at the Holocaust Memorial in Israel.

Irish statesman, Edmund Burke once said, ‘The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” It is unbearable to think that our own lack of moral courage could permit evil to flourish or allow the innocent to suffer.

I pray our family will have the moral courage to speak out against evil and to protect the innocent and persecuted – whatever the personal cost.

 

Let Us Pray

+ that our grandchildren will be quick to help the poor and rescue the oppressed – Psalm 82:4

+ that our grandchildren will not harden their hearts to the needs of hurting and oppressed people – Deuteronomy 15:7

+ that our grandchildren will not be afraid to take a stand against oppression and persecution – Jeremiah 22:3

+ that our grandchildren will understand the Christian responsibility to stand up for those being persecuted even to death Proverbs 24:11

+ that our grandchildren will understand that God has placed them in the world for such a time as this Esther 4:14

+ that our grandchildren will never show favoritism but will see each person through the eyes of Christ James 2:1

 

Heavenly Father,

We live in a day when moral courage is needed. Aside from you, we have no courage of our own. We ask that you would give to each of us true clarity in the issues of right and wrong and the strength to back up our beliefs with words and actions. We pray that in the dangerous days in which our children and grandchildren live, they would have the moral courage that comes from knowing you and trusting you with their lives. When the opportunity arises, give them the resolve of  Daniel, the certainty of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, the fearlessness of Esther and the compassion of the French villagers of Le Chambon. May our families and their descendants never stand by and watch evil flourish. Give us moral courage we ask in the name of our Savior who faced evil and won

 

Think and Do

  1. When our oldest daughter, Jennifer, was small, she loved the story of David and Goliath. She memorized a verse that was included in an audio dramatization for children, “Some trust in chariots. Some trust in horses. But, we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Read your grandchildren the stories of Biblical heroes with moral courage: David, Joseph, Daniel and others. Find corresponding Bible verses that reinforce the fact that moral courage is the result of trust.
  2. Do you know someone who has exhibited great moral courage? Is it a story you can share with your grandchildren? Have you had moments of great moral courage of your own? What was the outcome?
  3. Read The Story of Ruby Bridges Goes to School with your grandchildren. Talk about the moral courage and faith of this small girl entering an all-white school. The picture book, Courage by Bernard Waber is a good introduction into the topic of everyday courage.
  4. Did a grandparent fight in WW II? Share pictures of this individual with your grandchildren and explain to them the moral courage it took for this person to do what was right to help protect innocent people.

The Courage of Le Chambon was taken from Kay’s book, A Grandmother’s Prayers: 60 Days of Devotions and Prayers.  It is available for immediate delivery through www.dhp.org/grandma and at Amazon http://tinyurl.com/qyx9yeu

 

from Miranda

 

 




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