SALT LAKE CITY — All eyes were on a soccer pitch in Russia Saturday as England defeated Sweden and Croatia topped Russia to join Belgium and France as semi-finalists in the 2018 World Cup.
But today the most important soccer team on earth remains the 12 boys and coach that make up the Wild Boar squad from Thailand.
They remain trapped inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the mountains of the Chiang Rai province, and they have been there huddled in the dark for more than two weeks.
There is a single goal and focus: How do we help the children? How do we get them out alive?
One would-be rescuer has already given his life in the effort, a man named Saman Kunan, a highly trained Thai Navy Seal, who died while placing air tanks into the cave for a potential rescue of the boys. He himself ran out of oxygen.
Volunteers are gathering from around the world. Thailand is accepting help. Rescuers are seeking the best ideas, no matter where they come from. Even Elon Musk sent teams to see if his innovative thinkers and engineers can come up with solutions.
It's a heart-wrenching time. How refreshing that politics appear absent and the goal is simple and clear: Do what is best for the children, no matter what.
Children will also be clearly in focus on Thursday in a Michigan courtroom, though there will be no "breaking news" updates. Here the latest battle of the culture wars will play out as an adoption agency case seeks to measure the rights of individuals. But the goals here are not so universally embraced and each of those involved have different motivations.
Dumont v. Lyon is a lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the Michigan Children’s Services Agency and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Arguments will be heard to determine whether a faith-based adoption and foster-care agency — in this case St. Vincent Catholic Charities — should be allowed to receive government contracts and funding to recommend placement for children if, for religious reasons, they won’t serve same-sex couples.
It's a case with many nuances and implications and will be detailed in the news columns of the Deseret News by reporter Gillian Friedman who went to Michigan to see just what's at stake. Look for that later this week both online and in print.
It's part of an ongoing series on faith in the public square that we began last month by detailing the 140 bills in state legislatures that cover everything from religious clubs in elementary schools to state officials authorized to solemnize weddings. But as our introduction to the piece says, "Most deal with LGBT rights, free speech, health care and adoption."
Further analysis of those bills appears in Sunday's edition of the Deseret News and online, where reporter Kelsey Dallas reveals that of the 140 bills brought forward, only 19 have bipartisan sponsorship. An additional eight bills were put forward by legislative committees comprised of both Democrats and Republicans and don't list the specific legislators calling for passage.
That's a meager percentage. It means nationwide few lawmakers are working together to solve some of our most vexing issues. It's one of the reasons we're focused on human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of religion — issues foundational to the country — as we highlight not just the challenges, but potential solutions to problems that impact children, adults and the country's future.
Squabbling, positioning, championing one person over another, or one person's beliefs over another comes with a cost. As Kelsey writes: "'Today, few people think of someone on the other side as someone to try to work with. That's your enemy,' said Kentucky Rep. Gerald Watkins.'"
Imagine if that was the state of mind of those in Thailand trying to help the trapped boys of team Wild Boar? The range of escape options includes having each child scuba dive along the water-filled path to the cave entrance. Rescuers are instructing these non-swimmers how to do that. It's incredibly risky. Still, that's using education as a solution and not underestimating the ability of the children.
Another option is to drill a hole in the roof and lift the team out. Some say food and water should be brought in and they should wait it out, until the water blocking their path recedes.
All ideas, brought forth by whomever, are on the table. Who gets credit? Who cares. Who gets blame? The parents of the children have sent letters into the cave telling the coach responsible for the children that it's not his fault they got trapped. It's kindness and compassion displayed at a time of high risk and stress.
The best of humanity is on display in Thailand. Oh that some of these lessons can be applied to the efforts underway in legislatures and the courtroom.
In Russia Saturday, nations watched the best soccer teams in the world compete. But even there the squad of 12 in the cave was never far from everyone's thoughts. Two days prior, the head of FiFA, the international governing body over the World Cup, sent the following message to Thailand:2 comments on this story
"On behalf of the international football community, I would like to join you in expressing my deepest sympathies and support to the families of the players and coach, as well as my solidarity with the people of Thailand at this time of great concern," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a letter to the head of the Football Association of Thailand. "We hope that, in some way, our words of support may help bring them a little peace and courage in these difficult moments of uncertainty and concern."
He has invited the team to the final of the World Cup to be played in Moscow on Sunday. Getting the boys out of the cave is a goal the world shares. Getting them to Moscow for the game will result in the loudest cheers of the day.