Monday

Moldova Prisons

I doubt if anyone would ever forget their first visit to a Moldovan prison: the forbidding gates, the echoing corridors, the stench of human body odour, rotting rodents, faeces, urine, and the constant moans of the suffering. Spend even a few hours inside and most of us are gasping for the fresh air of freedom. If that's how it feels to the visitor, how must it feel to those who know that the place is to be home, if not ‘sweet home,’ for the next six months or six years?

Yet to meet even briefly the people who inhabit it, whether staff or prisoners, is to find the human face of prison. Within its walls there’s a cross-section of humanity: sensitive and insensitive, kind and cruel, noble and villains - and that’s just the staff!

Within the prisoner community one can find university graduates, accountants, politicians, musicians and actors, innocent children and mothers - alongside the usual mix of drink and drug victims, addicts and psychiatric misfits. Every one of them, the believer would want to say, made in the image of God and for that reason infinitely valuable and precious.

They are there because they are either alleged or guilty of having offended against society, and their penalty is the temporary deprivation of liberty. And at least in Moldova they are also there in the hope, albeit sometimes a faint one, that the experience will lead to a reformation of life.


Shockingly, there are many there who are victims of the former government and old communist laws or practices, where the prisoner is guilty of nothing more than speaking against the government. Indeed, the long needed changes in this practice are happening. But it's more challenging to change behaviours and practices than it is to change a written law in a book. So suffering abounds, both for prisoner and keeper!

Strangely enough, history and religious faith are full of prisoner heroes: Daniel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, or John Bunyan, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Those names may help us to realise that time spent doing ‘porridge’ is not always wasted.

These prisoner heroes were also of course, people of faith and there's no doubt that many prisoners are attracted to religion during their time inside. America has some faith-based prisons and in Britain we have prison chaplains, working within the prison service, but very much concerned with the spiritual well being of all the inmates and staff. None of this exists in a Moldovan prison. Often in Britain this is the first time the prisoner is asked to account for his conviction and what journey he will take towards change.

But for many of those prisoner heroes the first step on their journey of faith was simply to recognise that they were in prison as a fair punishment for what they had done. It was too for another criminal, to whom Jesus made His last and solemn promise as he hung beside him on a cross. Unlike his taunting colleague, he confessed that he had been condemned justly, ‘for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds.’ he then pleaded, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ ‘Truly I say to you,’ came the reply, ‘today - not at some future day of kingship - today you will be with me in paradise.’

Footnote:

This year in particular I am in desperate need of help for the women and children imprisoned in Moldova. We waited an entire year for a comprehensive support and aid project to take place, only to learn that in fact, not one of the projects had ever been started by the American church who had assured the undertaking. It has caused some tragic consequences. We are not trying to raise money - only tangible help. If you are interested in learning about the needs of the people of Moldova, please see our blog entitled:

http://www.pnlmoldovaprisons.blogspot.com/

or refer to our website,


Lord God, protector of our freedoms, Grant us the grace to work against evil and to promote justice and freedom for all. Protect the oppressed and downtrodden, uplift them with the knowledge that they are not forgotten and there are those who work diligently to bring them freedom. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen

When we Think God isn't Listening




Labels: , , , , ,

2 Comments:

At 01:03, Blogger ass2006 said...

Hi, a nice blog you have here. You will surely get an bookmark :) Forum

 
At 13:44, Anonymous Mrs Ethel Lippings said...

Father Bill. Thank you for coming to preach at St Stephens. Your sermon brought many of us to tears and we had laughter too. The children you speak for are blessed and we pray for them and you. God bless you.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home