Halloween—the dentists’ favorite holiday…
My American friends who take a walk through their neighborhoods today will be greeted by an assortment of scary decorations in front of their neighbors’ homes: carved pumpkins, skeletons, witches, ghosts, gravestones, giant spiders, black cats, even skulls placed on a stick. In American culture, decorating homes like this is a fun way to celebrate a holiday that is mostly focused on children dressing in costumes and getting free candy.
I sometimes wonder how a new immigrant to America might respond when he sees this. Imagine someone fleeing a war-ravaged nation where gravestones and skeletons are reminders of the horror they left behind. Suddenly they have to face the same images every day in their neighbor’s front yard.
I also wonder why Americans enjoy these macabre decorations. Is it because these are things we no longer fear? Perhaps generations past were haunted by such realities, but now we feel safe in our modernity?
If so, maybe these decorations serve a positive purpose—to declare our victory over the horrors and fears of our past. We can use Halloween to remember that we’ve been brought “from darkness into light” as the Bible says.
But I’d like to encourage us on this holiday to also remember those who are still traumatized by recent horrors, and offer a prayer for them.
Living in Indonesia, we’ve had to deal with 8-inch spiders invading our home, a ghost haunting our school, and real witchcraft destroying people’s lives. But even worse, the image of a skull on a stick reminds us of the horrific genocide that occurred the year our daughter was born.
A conflict between the indigenous Dayak people of the interior of our island, and the immigrant Madurese, turned into a vicious ethnic cleansing of the central province, sending tens of thousands of Madurese fleeing into our port city and then fleeing our island altogether. Roughly 100,000 people ran for their lives with what they could carry on their backs. We helped feed some of them at the harbor waiting for boats to take them off-island. It broke our hearts to hear that some of them were offering their children for sale for the price of a meal because they couldn’t stand to see their children starve.
But the worst memory for many people in our area was that the main road between our city and the central province was lined with spears, each spear holding a severed human head. This was not even 10 miles from our home.
Thank God, today the Madurese are slowly trickling back into the central part of our island and are at peace with the Dayaks. God’s healing power is stronger than man’s evil.
But let’s remember the suffering people of the world today—in Syria, Congo, the Rohingya of Myanmar—there are many for whom skeletons may represent their own loved ones.
As you bless the costumed children of your neighborhood with candy, please pray a prayer of blessing for a hurting world still trapped in the darkness, for those who long for a day when the horrors of the past are far behind them and they can experience true peace. Make this a Halloween to remember them.