An Imperfect Offering, Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century

I just finished reading this book today. It was written in 2008 by James Orbinsky, M.D. and details his experiences as an humanitarian doctor for Doctors Without Borders ( from October 1991 to 2004. Dr. Orbinsky received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. He left Doctors Without Borders in 2004 to co-found Dignitas International and also function as its Chair of the Board of Directors. Dignitas International is a medical humanitarian organization researching and working with communities in the global south to increase access to life-saving treatment and prevention overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS and with aboriginal communities in Canada to improve community-based care for diseases such as diabetes.

To read his book puts you right in the middle of the nightmare in such places as Somalia, Afghanistan and Rwanda. Places that we have never been to and cannot even imagine. During the Rwandan Massacre of 1994, more than one million people, all of one tribe, were butchered in fourteen weeks, and the crimes in Darfur, Sudan which started in 2003, are still continuing today.

“An Imperfect Offering” is about confronting the unjust suffering found in so many areas of the world. It is about “the good of those who refuse to remain silent as another is violated, and to act to right a wrong. It is the good we can be if we so choose.” It is about the choice we all have to make to be heroes for the good of the helpless and innocent.

The stories of Orbinski’s childhood illustrated how he came face to face with the victims of war, and how he opened his heart for them. These may have been the impetus behind his career with Doctors Without Borders. “An Imperfect Offering” is not an easy book to read. Once you are exposed to the grinding poverty, the sickness, the all-pervasive death, and the barbaric cruelty inflicted by one group of people on another, you can never be the same. But maybe that is for the best. Maybe we can each be motivated in whatever way we are capable of helping, to do what we can. The epilogue of this book gives us directions in what we are to do. This book answers the Biblical question, “Who is my neighbor?” We are called to take the blinders off and to take responsibility for each other in the family of man. Ignorance is not bliss. Here is a list of the organizations that Orbinski supports, or has worked with. Look them over and see if one speaks to you.

Dignitas International ( This organizational is testing and developing a community-based care approach to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the developing.

Me’decins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders ( This is an independent humanitarian organization that cares for people without any regard for their own safety. These are our true Super-Heroes.

Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative ( This not-for-profit works to develop drugs for neglected diseases and make available for the world’s poor and forgotten.

Hope for Rwanda’s Children’s Fund ( This group assists needy children in Rwanda who cannot afford tuition, schoolbooks and school supplies.

SAFER ( This organization offers social aid for the elimination of rape and supports women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are victims of rape as a weapon of war.

War Child ( This group helps children affected by war around the world by providing relief and working for children’s rights.

Amnesty International ( Amnesty International is a worldwide group of people who work for human rights for all.

Human Rights Watch ( This organization believes that human rights apply to all people equally and the world will benefit when people of good will commit themselves to it.

If you wish to read more about these conflicts, their cause and and results, I recommend “A Long Way Gone, The Story of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmeal Beah and “Left to Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza.

I have no more to say. Hopefully we will be moved to join an organization that touches our hearts and inspires us to work for “Peace on Earth”.


“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

William Penn

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