Looking back over the past twenty years in Cambodia working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized has brought to mind the famous story of the Good Samaritan on the Jericho Road. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story let me explain. First, some background on the venue: the Jericho Road was a dangerous and harrowing 17 mile stretch of road carved into the mountain between Jerusalem and Jericho – hence the name. Over the course of this remote path, the steep, winding and descending road became a common place of robberies; a treacherous place where travelers would often encounter peril and danger. Consequently, the Jericho Road became more commonly known and referred to as the ‘blood path’.
In the story of the Good Samaritan*, a man was travelling down the Jericho Road and was robbed of everything that he owned, beaten and left for dead by the side of the road. Some very religious people passed the dying man and did nothing to help him. However, later when a Samaritan man passed by, he was moved by what he saw and went to him to help. He cleaned his wounds with oil and wine and put him on his donkey and took him to an inn, where he was able to rest and heal. The Samaritan was moved to help a fellow man who was in desperate need, putting himself at risk of being attacked and robbed while doing so. Just as Martin Luther King so passionately argued in his “Mountain Top” Sermon, while most of us stop and ask “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” we should instead follow the Good Samaritan who reversed the question and asked, “If I do not stop to help this man, than who will?”
Asking myself this very question has inspired and motivated me to continue traveling down a different “Jericho Road”. In the early 1990’s my wife and I came to Cambodia, with our three young daughters, to start Hagar. Hagar (International) is an organization with a mission to care for those women and children who have been abused and traumatized by heinous acts of violence and then cast aside, neglected by society. Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we sought to bring about healing, recuperation and reintegration. That took tremendous effort and came at a great cost to my family. While the Good Samaritan covered the cost of the man’s recovery, we too raised finances relentlessly and passionately with the help of some very caring, compassionate and gracious people. The money raised provided the means to allow many women and children to be rescued and cared for in an ‘inn’ – which allowed them the opportunity to restore their hope and to create a future.
While Hagar rightly continues to assist those who fall victim on this ‘Jericho Road’ here in Cambodia, as well as in Vietnam and Afghanistan; I have come to realize that we need a paradigm shift in which we address the bigger picture. If we move our attention to transforming the Jericho Road and it surroundings instead of only simply focusing on aiding the victims along the road, then we can stop the cycle of abuse! If we transform communities by investing in enterprises, creating wealth, unleashing entrepreneurship, empowering people with skills and creating jobs then people will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. Thinking about how can we transform these communities and societies, the vision for SHIFT360 was born. I soon realized, that a 360 degrees approach was required. This 360 approach does not mean that we start again from zero, but that we take a holistic approach to resolving the issues. And for this holistic approach to happen, it is imperative to bring actors from all sectors of society together. Leaders from the government, private sector, civil society, religious leaders and academia need to interact and come to the table if we are going to truly address the injustices and bring about transformation. Additionally, I realized that focusing on one solution alone would not bring about the change needed. Instead we need to provide access to education, skills training, proper healthcare, agriculture infrastructure and sustainable jobs through outright investment. This is a massive undertaking and bigger than any single sector of society.
While there are those who should continue serving as the Good Samaritan, offering selfless acts of compassion and caring for the individuals who they come across, we must also begin to think about the bigger picture and take part in the transformation that will impact individuals, communities and entire economies. We need to transform the Jericho Roads of this world.
*The story of the Good Samaritan can be found in the book of Luke Chapter 10