In this guest blog, Associate Fellow Anahita Mahmoudi reflects on the millions of people displaced due to conflict or climate, and the need for a deeper transformation in how we approach this humanitarian crisis.
Last month I joined a retreat ‘Resilience & adaptation for times of social & ecological emergency at St.Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. This retreat was designed for activists, peace-makers, change agents, people of faith or anyone who wanted to face up to new realities of our time and stand in solidarity with others.
I was a little bit cynical, and thinking “what am I going to possibly get from building resistance and standing in solidarity with those who are suffering?” There’s so much wrong with the world and there are so many people and species who are suffering whose stories leave people in deep despair. We are going through (one of) the worst humanitarian, ecological, economical, and environmental crises of our time and there is no sign of a sustainable and forward-looking answer to the crisis.
Reflecting on everything that’s happening on earth and talking about these crises, there is something that it always shows up. It’s always them against us! It’s their problem not ours. The crisis is over there not here. Their country is in war, their land is dying, their rivers are drying. They are poor and we are privileged. It’s their destiny and it’s our right to have a life that’s comfortable and safe.
We live in a society that teaches us how to separate ourselves from others, to protect ourselves. A society driven by the demands of the animal-nature, self-seeking individuals strive to exalt themselves over their neighbors. Impelled by prejudice and a sense of superiority, competing groups attempt to serve their own selfish interests and endeavor to impose their will on others. Aggression and conflict characterize the daily interactions of a humanity trapped in an endless struggle for dominance.
I had to think, “you know, maybe this whole journey of separation and protection is part of the problem.” Seeing our needs against their needs. Throughout the ages, we have seen the consequence of such mentality and prejudice when Genghis khan ripped off Persia, Columbus stole America from its indigenes people, White claimed Black as slaves, European powers partitioned Africa amongst themselves, Hitler killed 6 million Jewish, Palestine was occupied, Children of Congo died so the developed countries have smart phones and Amazon forest was cut off to support global food and energy markets.
Around the world millions of people have been forced to leave their homes due to the conflicts and climate collapse and have become vulnerable refugees. Meanwhile the anti-refugee sentiment is a rising global trend. Now, we have reached the tipping points of our time, rainforests are dying, refugees are dawning in the sea and yet the solutions we see are building taller walls, longer fences, stricter boarder control, detention camps, developing nuclear power stations and stocking foods to protect ourselves.
What if we ask about their story? What’s life like there? Why are conditions so bad in those countries? It’s an uncomfortable question to ask. Maybe “it’s because of the operation of the story of separation that generates our economic, political, and military systems”. What’s happening is not the problem of one man. Addressing these problems requires a different system of thought.We need to change the idea that violence, discrimination and separation are solutions and employ different methods.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble accepting people from other lands. We built more computers to connect globally more than ever, but we relate to people and lands less and less.
People from the East are left with no choice but to look for peace in the West and societies and communities in the West are running out of strategies. This is a phenomena in our time; the phenomena of ‘West is meeting East’.
I have had this question in mind and this urgency to answer it for a while – what can we do these days? I have learned about a series of answers to the question, live simple, use less plastics, fly less, volunteer in local communities, help refugees, feed a hungry child, boy cut palm oil, plant a tree, support a campaign, donate, etc. which are all valid actions. Indeed, we should do them. Reflecting on everything that are happening in the world is an affirmation that today’s crises require a different perspective – a perspective that gets to the root cause of the problem and acknowledges the truth.
Eventually, I despaired of ever answering the question but, I realised that facing the truth, as harsh as it can be, it creates the empty space into which something else can come.
I hope more and more members of society can step away from existing rules and definitions of what is right or wrong. Also, to look beneath today’s crises to see what really is happening, connect with humanitarian values and act with the intention of peace to guide communities, societies, economies, governments, organizations, and indeed humanity itself into the 21st Century and beyond.
The world is in dire need of a transformative view to help us pass through some of the massive humanitarian and environmental crises we are facing. “The crisis that we face as a society will not be solved by some technical tweaks. It is an invitation to a total transformation”- Charles Eisenstein.
Still, I can’t not think about Max Ehrmann’s words “with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
Anahita Mahmoudi is an Associate Fellow of St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. Anahita’s heart is truly in humanitarian work and has in-depth experience of refugee aid work from within the heart of the refugee crisis in Europe from 2015 to present.
Reference: Eisenstein C., 2020, Political Hope, Lesson 2.
Photo: Children in a refugee camp in South Sudan collect water for their families in the half-light of sunset. Credit: www.geoffpugh.com