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During Lent, we are called to reflect on our own mortality. For most people living comfortably in the United States, such an exercise stretches us, unless we have been dealing with suffering in our own families. Recently, however, the looming war in Europe has commanded the attention of the world.

And why has this particular war ignited such a response? Why have these refugees been so well received? Wars continue to rage in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Sudan and people flee these conflicts as well, yet without such open arms offered.

If you listened carefully to coverage of the war in Europe, even professional journalists expressed the sentiment that these refugees looked like them. Suddenly white people instead of Black and brown people needed help and support. For the majority white culture in Europe and the US, identifying with the suffering became easier.

Yet when Jesus died on the cross, we know he died for all. James Cone connected his death to the lynching tree; Jesus died like a criminal, without a fair trial or due process, at the hands of the mob yelling crucify him. Because of this Jesus identifies with the suffering we experience, but especially that of the oppressed, usually the Black and brown people of our world.

As a white person myself, I can never fully understand how it feels to suffer racial oppression. But I can listen and pay attention to what my brothers and sisters report. As I meditate during Lent with war raging, I can consider the suffering of these other wars as well. And I can ask myself what power and privilege I can surrender to make space for others. This year, instead of giving up meat or chocolate for Lent, what if we gave up power and privilege?

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Kathy Callahan-Howell pastors the church she founded in Cincinnati, Winton Community Free Methodist. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and has been an ordained elder since 1985. Kathy currently serves as co-chair of the Justice Network. She and her husband Roger have four adult children and two grandchildren.

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