We are not powerless to begin in the process of global healing
The story of refugees throughout the world in the 21st century is not getting any better. The United Nations Refugee Agency announced recently that 3 million people from Syria alone are now refugees, forced through terror, to abandon their homes and secure livelihoods to find safety in another land. This century, only 14 years old, has so far seen over 50 million people flee their countries of origin and become refugees. More than during the Second World War! We are witnessing another exodus, this time almost global in scope. Recently Pope Francis likened the terrible violence, unrest and killings in so many countries to a third World War.
Deciding to leave one’s country and all that is familiar because of war or other extremity, is an act of utter desperation. What would it take for any of us to feel the necessity of doing that? Fear of our next door neighbour threatening us for some imagined crime? Fear of loved ones dying of hunger? Fear of bombs falling from the sky? Fear of invasion followed by rape or other personal assault? Fear of being forced to stand by and watch one’s loved ones being tortured and / or slaughtered? Fear of a chemical attack where the contamination spreads silently, leaves horrible, disfiguring burns, or else kills outright? These are the reasons that people are leaving there homes for today.
“The United Nations High Commission for Refugees Global Trends report says at the end of last year less than one million (asylum seekers) were in the wealthiest countries of Europe, including Ireland. In Britain the number was 150,000. France 280,000. Germany 330,000. Ireland has over 4,300 living in reception centres, of whom over 1,600 are children. Yet in other, much poorer countries the desire to erect barriers to entry does not seem to be a priority: Pakistan has taken in 1.6 million, and tiny Jordan 600,000.
Western Europe is a “Bad Samaritan” in this respect. But we also need to ask; what is happening in the world today that there is so much violence, rage, hatred and fear – and 50 million refugees? Has a third world war really started? There are historical, cultural and economic roots, to this present situation, many laid down in previous centuries by the imperial exploits of some Western nations.
However, there are also spiritual currents at play. Does the fact that so much is available to so many people mean that those who “have” should keep on having more? Are there any limits to consumption? Have those with superior power the right to exploit the resources of the less powerful solely for their own gain? The fact that certain precious minerals, needed for modern technology, are only found in some central African states, for example, is a deplorable excuse for creating social unrest and tribal warfare so as to gain influence. Examples sadly abound.
But each of us is culpable to the extent that we do not try to limit our consumption and live more simply. If we try and make connections, we can realise that our insistence on wanting many products today, continues to destabilize the world, simply because the raw materials required for their manufacture are sourced from very poor countries who can’t strike a fair deal. In many places, a sense of exclusion from social participation can fuel resentment and a desire to retaliate. But many holy people, from Gandhi, to the Buddhist Dalai Lama and Thich Nat Hahn to Christian peace-makers, who have all greatly influenced the 20th century, have said that to bring healing and peace to the world we must establish peace within ourselves first. Gandhi inspired millions across India and beyond through non-violent ways, even winning independence for his country! Perhaps the current popularity for Mindfulness is an unexpressed desire to “be peace” in our own locality. Whatever way we choose, so long as we choose a way, we are not powerless to begin that process of global healing that will, finally, enable “everyone (to) sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken”. Micah 4:4.