Today, on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit, I came across yet another terrifying story of loss and despair. It is the story of Mahmoud and Reem, two refugees who fled Syria for Greece with their four children and who lost one of their children, their six-year-old daughter Rand, when she was struck by a train in the dead of night as they were walking along the tracks, a journey that had already lasted two days, without food and water. And yet, in this darkness, a light shone through, bright and clear – Akis and Sia Armpatzianis, two strangers to Mahmoud and Reem, who lived in a village close to the scene of the tragedy, helped them organize and paid for an Islamic burial for Rand, comforting them in their time of great need.
In the darkest of hours, the human spirit somehow shone through, bright and strong.
THIS is what we have to fight for. We need to remember what it means to be HUMAN.
Somewhere along the way, we really have forgotten all about empathy, compassion, and decency. Sure, there are political implications and ramifications, yes, security must be dealt with – but bottom line, we are talking of human beings. Any ‘solution’, any measures should be grounded in that, and not the other way around. We’ve somehow relegated the human condition to the back-burner.
As our leaders meet, in five-star hotels around the world, and enjoy luxury travel, accommodation and food, our fellow, yes fellow, human beings are struggling simply to survive, whether for want of war, poverty, or ecological disaster that has led to famine. And we conveniently forget, comfy as we are in our safe, warm, fed reality, that we too have a stake in their misfortune. We who buy in to a capitalist culture that doesn’t bother to question where the goods we purchase come from – who makes the cheap clothes I’m so happy to have bought on the net? are they receiving adequate wages? are their working conditions sanitary? is the company I’ve just contributed to in some back channel way aiding the conflict in Syria or elsewhere in the world? do they have an investment stake in weapons trade? are they directly (palm oil) or indirectly responsible for some environmental damage somewhere in the world?
These are the uncomfortable questions we should be asking ourselves on a daily basis if we really want to wash our hands of any responsibility in the matter. But of course, the majority of us don’t. It would be too inconvenient and we’d probably have to rethink a hell of a lot of our purchasing choices.
So before we begin pointing fingers at others, let’s point them at ourselves and for heaven’s sake, let’s put the human being back at the centre of the equation.