Holding On To Our Humanity

Photograph by Stop Genocide NowThe NY Times featured a fantastic article in today’s paper discussing the human response to mass suffering.

Nowadays, it seems like everywhere you look, horrible things are happening – from Darfur to the Congo to Zimbabwe to even here in the US. Bombarded by report after report of suffering, humans have a tendency to turn away, to grow numb, to become indifferent.

However, perfectly phrased by Elie Wiesel –

Indifference to the suffering of others is what makes the human being inhuman…The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory…And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.

Yes, it may be easier to turn the channel when a story about Darfur is on TV than to watch millions enduring the unthinkable. But, by doing so, who exactly are you hurting?

Remember the concept of “ubuntu” – the idea that a person is a person through other persons. One does not live in isolation. One is pained when another is pained. One is joyous when another feels joy.

So, make the choice not to turn the channel…make the choice to hold on to your humanity.

To learn more about the report on Darfuri women mentioned by the NY Times columnist, click here.

Sudan, Congo, and Zimbabwe Hurt Africa’s Human Rights Record

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Today, the US State Department presented to Congress its annual report on global human rights.

The report revealed that “human rights worsened across Africa despite some bright spots”.

The major contributors to Africa’s lamentable human rights record?

Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe.

Recently, these three countries have been ravaged by government-sponsored genocide, sexual violence, use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, a lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and security, and other gross violations of human rights.

In response to the report, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton vowed to uphold human rights in America and abroad

Not only will we seek to live up to our ideals on American soil, we will pursue greater respect for human rights as we engage other nations and people around the world.

What is Peace?

Many people hope that 2009 will bring peace to countries devastated by hardship – such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, what exactly is peace? And, perhaps more importantly, is it even possible?

Austin Bay, columnist for the Washington Times, recently wrote a piece of commentary about peace – questioning how to define it and whether it can prevail against the avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride of mankind.

I truly believe that peace is more than a “brief timeout between wars”. While I may not be able to say exactly what it is – I know what it is not.

Peace is not the government-sponsored killing of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions more.

Peace is not the raping of young girls and women who venture too far in search of firewood and water.

Peace is not children growing up in IDP camps without adequate food, shelter, medical supplies, and education.

So, let me know your thoughts. What does peace mean to you? Can it be achieved?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

BBC News has released its 2008 Africa – Year in Pictures. Check it out.

Sadly, most monthly highlights show violence and instability.

Hopefully, 2009 will bring more awareness and aid to regions in need.

Pope Seeks Peace for Africa

During his Christmas Day message, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to chaos in Africa – particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan.

The Pope spoke of the “interminable sufferings” of the people of these countries as the “tragic consequences of the lack of stability and peace”.

He further encouraged individuals worldwide to not stand idly by –

If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.

I encourage all of you, this holiday season and beyond, to heed the words of Pope Benedict XVI.

Top 10 Humanitarian Crises

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF – also known as Doctors Without Borders) has published its annual list of the top ten humanitarian crises.

The 2008 list is as follows:

1. Somalia
2. Myanmar
3. Zimbabwe
4. Democratic Republic of Congo
5. Child malnutrition
6. Ethiopia
7. Pakistan
8. Sudan
9. Iraq
10. HIV/TB co-infection

MSF claimed that providing aid proved to be especially difficult this year as a result of increased security risks and inadequate government attention to worsening situations.