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Value of Life and Suffering

I always ask myself why people sometimes hate each other so much that they get to the point of taking someone’s life. To take someone’s life because you don’t like him or her, denounces the whole aspect of why we live. Life is something precious which everyone has to cherish and respect. I came to realize how valuable life is when I witnessed people being killed in Rwanda in 1994 when the genocide broke out. It was summer of 1994, school was off and I was excited to join my parents for summer vacation in Rwanda.I was 16 years old and life to me meant nothing more than enjoyment. One week into my vacation I learnt a lesson of my life. I saw innocent people being deprived their live without justifiable reasons.

From that day I realized that life is precious and valuable; if respected by everyone we can eliminate unnecessary suffering and/or deaths. Today I consider myself blessed because there are many millions of innocent people in this world who are suffering and the value of their life being degraded because of carelessness of some ruthless people. When I see many people suffering around the world, and my past experiences, make me value my life and life of other people around me. 

In the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Frankl, I learned how innocent people suffered and/or died because of few people who did not care about the value of life anymore. Those people regard material things more than someone’s life. Frankl wrote “we all had been fancied our self to be “somebody.” Now we were treated like complete nonentities.” Frankl and his comrades were mistreated to the point of being regarded as none existent. The lives of prisoners meant nothing to their oppressors. In the concentration camps people were being burned alive; to me that epitomizes suffering not only to those being burned but also to people around that situation.

My experience of someone’s life being treated worthless was in Rwanda when genocide broke out in 1994. I was there as a foreigner visiting my parents who worked as Lutheran missionaries. I had witnessed some kind of suffering before, but never in my life had I seen dead bodies of women and children lying on the road side without anybody paying attention. I saw dead bodies of young boys and girls lying on the side of the road when we were on the bus on our way out of that country.

When I tried to get some understanding why that was happening, I was told that they are “enemies” of each other. Hutu tribe tried to eradicate Tutsis so that they can get out of suffering the Tutsis had caused over the years. Tutsis are the minority but controlling the political and economic system. Genocides were carried out to “liberate” the Hutus. In my mind I asked myself how a little boy or girl could be an enemy? Poor little people lost their lives because of hatred they did not even quite comprehend yet. I can relate this to what caused the suffering and/or death of prisoners in the concentration camps, they were innocent victims of circumstances.

What I saw in Rwanda in 1994 is a typical example of what is going on in the world today. In Africa alone there are estimated 10 million people are suffering due to war and hunger and thousands are dying. Lives of innocent people are being lost everyday. Leaders of those countries benefit themselves and they forget about their people. When I think of leaders of troubled countries in Africa and elsewhere, I am reminded of capos in the concentration camps.

Capos did not understand that even if they were getting little privileges, they were still prisoners. Those leaders too, fail to understand that they are still part of the suffering community. They sacrifice the lives of millions for their little luxuries. Frankl wrote “thus it is not so much concerned with the suffering of the mighty, but with the sacrifices, the crucifixion and the death of great army of unknown and unrecorded victims.” Irresponsible leaders cause mass death and suffering of people. In Rwanda’s genocide it is estimated one million people lost their life in sixth months.

Frankl and his fellows suffered beyond a regular person can imagine. Nobody cared they had life to leave, professions, families and love. They lost all that, but those who survived hanged on one thing that, life had value and purpose no matter the circumstances they were facing at that time. They hoped that one day they are going to be free of suffering and oppression. They believed their life will have value again. Frankl wrote “life is like being at the dentist; you always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.” When prisoners were finally liberated no body anticipated it and they did not believe it right away. But sufferings were over for them. They were about to start new life again, life full of value without suffering.

Me too, I hope that all these wars, hunger, killing of one another, which had caused and still causing suffering to human beings will end. Frankl wrote “the consciousness of ones inner value is anchored in higher, more spiritual and can not be shaken by camp life.” My hope is higher enough to believe that value of life of people who are disregarded will again be valued and respected. Even if my wishes seem to go against Frankl who wrote “suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death, without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.” But why innocent people have to go through suffering, why the life of women and children I saw lying dead along the road had to end that way? I guess I am asking too many questions to life than it can provide me some sensible answers

“Life does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete,” Frankl wrote. When everyone realizes this statement from Frankl, the human suffering we are seeing today will end. It all starts by understanding the meaning and value of life. To me once you value your life and life of other people, you are making the world safer. Frankl wrote “when the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude.” To be it sound obvious that everyone knows that there is no way to replace a lost person, but still you see unnecessary loses of many lives.

Frankl questioned “how possible is it that man of flesh and blood could treat others as so many prisoners say they have been treated?” I have the same question for the people who cause suffering to people’s life. The value of life laid behind respect of oneself life and life of others. Should people in Rwanda loved and respected each other’s life, genocide should have never happened. We can learn from Rwanda and other experiences like Frankl’s in the concentration camps. Unnecessary suffering and deaths of innocent people can be avoided if everyone realized how valuable life is. I believe life can be complete without going through suffering. Let us learn from others, I learned from Rwanda and I hope I will never have to see suffering like that in my life.