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America: Who Are We? A Nation of Kings or Fellow Pilgrims in the World?

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By Kimberly L. Smith , CP Guest Contributor
July 24, 2014|6:05 pm

Paradox can be hard to live with sometimes, much less understand. For example, Ken Wilber, an American writer and public speaker, is one of the most largely respected integral thinkers in our world today, encouraging much spiritual, psychological, and human development.

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Editors' Note: Recently, Jeremiah Heaton, a man from Virginia, claimed an 800-square-mile area of unclaimed land between Sudan and Egypt as his own kingdom. He did so because his 7-year-old daughter wanted to be a princess.

  • Kimberly Smith
    (Photo: Kimberly Smith)

Kimberly L. Smith, the president of an anti-trafficking and orphan care network operating in [North] and South Sudan has written this op-ed responding to this new kingdom. What many do not realize is the Heaton's new kingdom is located in an area devastated by famine, genocide and violence. Smith's organization, Make Way Partners, operates an orphanage not far away and cares for over 1,500 unadoptable orphans. While Emily Heaton is excited about being a "princess," thousands of children in the area are starving and many are victims of violence, rape and human trafficking.

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Yet, somehow, our country also manages to produce navel-gazing ne'er do wells, who have come to believe that just because their gold-emblazoned passport affords them the "right" to do a thing, this means they should. Take Jeremiah Heaton, for example.

Heaton is an American father of three children, one of which decided she wanted to be a princess. Yes, 7-year-old Emily wants to be a princess. Therefore, her daddy sat out on a quest to buy his little gal a kingdom in which he could establish himself as king—perhaps a not-so-latent dream of his own—and simultaneously grant his daughter's princess-ship dream.

Never mind the fact that the 800 square miles of unclaimed land Heaton found is smack-dab-in-the-middle of two countries embroiled in violent uprisings, political coups, war, genocide, ethnic cleansing and government-sanctioned rape and sexual mutilation of women and young girls. A fact at which, I think, even a king might have cause to consider a second glance at his actions.

It all smacks so much of what Wilber describes as the "Might Makes Right" mentality, one of the lowest grids on the spiritual development chart. I should take it for me and mine because I can. I'm wondering how many American troops and how much U.S. funds Heaton will be expecting when the rape and genocide spill across his neighbor's borders, infecting his new kingdom.

In drastic contrast to Heaton, I've known a man for nearly 10 years who lives not far from Heaton's self-claimed kingdom; his name is Romano Oguma Nero. He has been awarded a similar plot of land, only rather than planting his flag for his own names' sakes, he's planting trees, corn, sweet potatoes and bananas while building schools, kitchens, orphanages and peace centers where he is raising hundreds of orphans, and teaching them to work the land that feeds them, no matter who claims kingship.

I just returned from visiting Romano and his beautiful children. There, I met Nalukung, a two-year-old who just three weeks ago could speak nothing but her tribal tongue. Today, she laughs and sings in both English and Arabic, the unifying languages of South Sudan. Nothing short of miraculous. Click here to read Nalukung's story and view 30-second video of her: http://www.makewaypartners.org/oh-my-gosh/.

As I consider the tremendous freedom we Americans enjoy around the world, might not we all one day be better judged by our children and grandchildren if we became pilgrims on the human journey, helping the suffering and persecuted people of these far-and-away lands survive a little better in their own kingdoms, versus fighting for our right to claim our own?

Kimberly L. Smith is the president and co-founder of Make Way Partners, the only indigenously operated relief organization in [North] Sudan and South Sudan providing anti-trafficking efforts to the most vulnerable orphans and former slaves. Smith has been serving alongside the Sudanese people for 10 years. Make Way Partners currently provides complete care to 1,100 orphans and employs 300 Sudanese, many of whom are former victims of sex trafficking. Smith is also the author of the award-winning book "Passport through Darkness," which chronicles much of her experience in Sudan. For more information on Kimberly L. Smith and Make Way Partners, please visit www.makewaypartners.org.
 

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