What is the value of human life?
There’s a saying in Cambodia that women are white cloths and men are gold bars. If a white cloth falls into the mud, it can’t be made clean again. But if a gold bar falls into the mud, it can be cleaned. It is still a gold bar.
What is the value of human life? Ranna, who lives in rural Cambodia, believed that her value was determined by her level of intelligence. When she failed her Grade 12 final exams at the age of 20, she gave up on school and, in many ways, gave up on herself.
“I generally didn’t dare to speak and was embarrassed. I always thought of myself as having low intelligence and was afraid to say something wrong to others,” she said. Ranna believed she was the weakest among her friends.
Throughout our lives, we absorb messages about our value. Sometimes we strive to increase our value. Sometimes our value is assigned to us. Our efforts can lead to frustration, exhaustion, and even depression. Our assigned value can lead others to treat us with judgment, harassment, and even hatred. In each case, we suffer.
At Christmas, we’re reminded that neither striving nor assigning can determine our real value. Our true worth lies elsewhere and cannot be altered. Jesus, in His first advent, proved that human life is precious enough for Him to brave all the odds and dare a rescue mission. We are valuable because we are His, made in His image with dazzling diversity that deserves celebration, not scorn.
Thanks to generous funding from the government of Canada, the TOGETHER project by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Canada is a six-year project that will ensure that nearly 200,000 girls, women, boys, and men in Cambodia, Kenya, the Philippines, and Uganda to exercise their health-related human rights. TOGETHER stands for “uniting Towards Gender Equality for enjoyment of women’s and girls’ Total Health and Rights.” It touches on the value of human life by empowering women, girls, men, and boys to understand, uplift, and protect the value of others, especially those considered inferior.
ADRA Canada recently invited Ranna to be a community partner for the TOGETHER project. She’d never held any position in her village.
At first, Ranna didn’t want to volunteer. “I felt I cannot do it because I am still afraid to speak out in public. But the ADRA staff tried to help and explained to me again and again. They encouraged me to try to read books and be brave. So, after that, I decided to be a community volunteer with ADRA. Now, I am in the Village Health Support Group for the health center.”
The Village Health Support Group helps to improve relationships between the staff and patients. The group members also assist with health service delivery, especially to the most vulnerable community members.
“I am very happy to be in the TOGETHER project,” Ranna said. “I expect that I will learn more from the project, and I will share all the knowledge with other mothers and help women in the community get involved in the project activities. That is my dream.”
Ranna has found her voice and is using it to show others their value. When we understand our true worth, our lives change for the better.
The original version of this commentary was posted in the December 2022 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.