Chickens and Goats

In the November 30th episode of the Daily Show the host, Trevor Noah, commented on the CNN report by Nima Elbagir et al. on the slave trade in Libya saying, “. . . In 2017 you don’t expect the breaking news to be ‘Slave Auctions are Back.’”

Sadly, the slave auction in Libya is breaking news. But it shouldn’t be. Everyday women, men, girls and boys are sold for sex or agriculture. “Human trafficking” is just a fancy term for slavery.

December 3rd was the first Sunday of Advent. The Sunday of Hope.

Where is hope in the face of the Libyan slave market, the trafficked sex and farm workers? The barrage of disturbing headlines and decisions about the course of our country? I found a bit of hope in a recent article from NPR by Maanvi Singh titled “How Chickens and Goats are Helping to Stop Child Marriage.”

Annabel Erulkar of the Population Council helped launch a program called Berhane Hewan (Light of Eve) in Ethiopia that began holding regular community meetings to discuss the practice of child marriage, why it happens, and how to stop it. In short, Berhane Hewan gave families school supplies so their daughters could stay in school. If they kept their daughters in school for two years the family would receive a chicken – because women tend to the chickens and the girls can easily sell the eggs to pay their school fees.

In some villages the communities “where it was customary for neighbors to help each other harvest crops, local leaders agreed that families that arranged an underage marriage wouldn’t get any such help.”*

Thanks to this, more girls are remaining unmarried and staying in school. The practices are working in large part because they are grown out of communities bravely coming together to address the illegal, but often practiced, child marriage.

In the face of modern day slavery, this story gives me hope.

Historian Thomas Cahill wrote a series of books focused on the “light bearers” of history. These include How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gift of the Jews, The Desire of the Everlasting Hills Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, and my favorite, Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe. The rich perspective he offers in the later reminds me that, no matter how dark the cultural times, there are always forces of light at work in the world.

Chickens and Goats.

While millions were being systematically slaughtered during the rise of the Third Reich and Stalinist Russia, AA and Al-Anon were forming and saving untold numbers of lives.

Chickens and Goats.

In the feudal system of Europe Benedict wrote an egalitarian rule for community and spiritual life in which no one’s needs are to be aggrandized or discounted. In which everyone, no matter their social background, is to be given the physical and spiritual support they need to journey with Christ.

Chickens and Goats.

I spiraled down the rabbit hole of my anxiety today, replaying all the tired, terrible stories I tell myself about who I am and what I have done, what I didn’t do, what I should have done, what I should do. I sank into despair over how powerless I feel in the face of all the evil and corruption in the world.

During the spiral I kept repeating, “Chickens and goats. Chickens and goats.”

God speaks in many ways. God acts in many ways. I continue to need concrete examples.

So just for today, in this season of Advent, when we need a little hope let us remember chickens and goats.

How Chickens and Goats are Helping to Stop Child Marriage by Maanvi Singh, NPR, December 3, 2017

Image courtesy of Rachel Hess,

2 Comments on “Chickens and Goats

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