Every week there appears something to be commemorated, celebrated or recognised.
Generally this will be some good cause with which we are quite familiar. However, the one this week has taken me by surprise – Missing Persons Week. This has been in existence for thirty years, having been set up in Townsville in 1988 after the disappearance of a gentleman there.
Obviously, it’s not a popular topic to put under the spotlight, but upon reflection, it could raise our awareness, and even set in place some useful strategies to prevent it happening close to us.
Missing persons can range from abduction, running away from real or imagined problems, planned escape from domestic violence or paedophilia, confusion due to dementia, or even intended suicide, to name but a few. Irrespective of the reason behind it, or the lack thereof, any person’s disappearance will have a deep and lasting effect on all the other people involved – family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours for a start.
Suffice it to say that the disappearance of little William Tyrrell is still causing anguish and deep felt wounding across a wide arena even beyond his family circle.
According to some statistics I read, there are 38,000 disappearances reported each year within Australia, with many remaining unsolved and unexplained. That is a huge number under this category, and would be at least doubled or trebled by the collateral damage caused.
There certainly are ways and means of addressing some of the problems underlying the missing persons problem. Maybe this can start by confiding in someone we trust within or outside the family. Privacy is a much valued and important part of life, but cannot be used as an excuse to cover up problems needing urgent attention.
Access to services in mental health, drug and alcohol, personality problems and counselling are all professionally available, but take a big bit of courage, and humility for the sufferer firstly to admit there is a problem, and then to open it up to someone else. We all like our privacy, but we can’t use it as a shield. Fortunately, with the aid of our Police force, most missing people have been found before further harm happens.
I understand there remain 1600 long term unsolved disappearances. Whether these are the direct result of criminal acts which have happened at random and been successfully covered up, or the outcome of someone’s planned disappearance without leaving a visible trace can never be satisfactorily resolved. In the meantime, we all need to be aware of the enormity of the missing persons problems for the persons concerned, their family and loved ones, and our society at large.
Families and friends of missing persons often speak about feelings of fear, anger, guilt, blame, frustration, helplessness, ambiguity, and isolation. While people may not experience all these emotions, it is important to recognise that any of these responses are normal reactions to an extraordinary situation.
Australia is the “lucky country” for so many – how about we open our eyes and our hearts to those around us in love and compassion.
These merciful gifts are a two way involvement – they are at their best when they are both given and received.
During this Missing Persons Week, let us all be a little more aware of the issues involved. A prayer never goes astray. We can add that to our prayer for drought relief.