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It all started with Mississippi Burning

It all started with Mississippi Burning

It all started with Mississippi Burning

31 January 2020

Captains Sandra and Ashish Pawar and their children preparing for the annual A21 Walk for Freedom against human trafficking.

By Sandra Pawar

I remember where I was when I truly began to care about injustice in the world, especially when it came to race relations and brokenness in the world.

I was 16 and sitting in my history class at Wellington East Girls College in New Zealand. We began to watch a movie called Mississippi Burning, and I remember being horrified and heartbroken over what I was seeing. I remember crying and trying to wipe my eyes and nose in such a way that would not draw attention to myself. I remember being shocked that people were being killed because of the colour of their skin. I remember talking to my parents about the movie for a whole week. I could not get it out of my mind.

That movie was instrumental in changing my view of the world, moving me from a place where I felt the world was peaceful and relatively kind, to a place where I saw incredible brokenness and injustice.

That movie didn’t cause me to become an activist, it didn’t lead me to sign petitions, march down the street in protest or even understand that I could do anything about what I saw. It just sat with me for a long time.

During this time I was a nominal believer. I went to church every Sunday, my parents were Salvation Army officers and we read the Scriptures and prayed together daily, but I didn’t really have a faith of my own. I was seeking to find God for myself and not rely on my parents’ faith.

I now see God’s hand in my life during those days – a young girl with a heart for others and a growing sense of what is just and unjust. I believe God was setting me up, opening the door to something that would become a part of my life in the future.

Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice state in their book, Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing, “The stories of Scripture point to reconciliation as a costly journey of transformation and hope that includes (but goes far deeper than) firefighting – a quiet revolution that takes shape over time and bursts forth through signs of hope in local places.” You see, I was learning to connect to God within my own story, figuring out where I stood with him. I was also learning to feel compassion, disgust and anger at injustice but not yet feeling like it was my job to change the world. That would all come later when my story with God would grow and develop into our story together.

That day at school opened my eyes to injustice, and it would become the first of many stories that I would cry about and mourn deeply for. God was patient with me. He waited for me to get to know him, to understand not just injustice but his deep love for his world and his people and to understand that there is also hope for this world. My faith, my theology and my relationship with Christ needed to flourish first and then I could walk in his purpose.

My name Sandra means defender of mankind. God was helping me to grow into my name with both wisdom and patience. I believe that becoming a peacemaker or being someone who longs to bring about reconciliation is a transformative process. Looking back now, I can see where that process began.

As my relationship with Christ grows, I understand more and more his heart; I understand those things that we, his children, do against each other that grieve his heart. I grow bolder with my voice, and my actions against injustice become stronger.

And it all started with a movie in a history class and a young teenage girl with a broken heart and a desire to find Jesus for herself. 

Where did it start for you or, perhaps, where will it start for you?

Captain Sandra Pawar is a multicultural church planter in Western Sydney.

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