Like most people with access to television or the internet I watched in fascination and horror at the impact of the tsunami on Japan. I had never witnessed such a powerfully destructive force of nature. I was saddened about the loss of life and property and people’s livelihoods, all gone is a matter of minutes.
But I was also heartened with the almost immediate response of aid from around the globe. Help came from everywhere; clothing, food, medicine, equipment, temporary housing. People around the world mobilised to help.
However, after watching the tragic events in Japan on the news, I was struck with a haunting realization. As long as the human suffering is caused by forces of nature (tsunamis, hurricanes, mudslides, flooding, etc.) the nations of the world come running to aid the helpless victims. But when the human suffering is caused by a despot, dictator, military rebels, or some group of political or religious haters, the world sends words instead of real help.
The United Nations issues a stern condemnation. The US Secretary of State comments on the deplorable events and opens an investigation. Everyone talks about how bad it is, the raping, the killing, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing, the uprooting of whole populations into refugees.
The suffering and loss of human life is the same in both cases, so why must the civilized nations of the world act differently between the two?
We need to get our priorities straight as a global community so that situations like Rwanda, Darfur, Sudan, Syria and countless other human atrocities are dealt with as swiftly as the aid pouring into Japan, Haiti and other victims of natural disasters.
I am sorry to say this, but the UN has lost its vision, values and courage to take a stand for helpless victims, no matter what the cause. While the UN debates, more children and innocent victims are raped and killed. Unless we stop the forces of evil and hatred who are killing innocents, we will be sending aid and huge amounts of money, with no impact or guarantee that such activities will stop. Aiding the victims is fine, but removing the haters and despots is the only answer to fewer victims, fewer atrocities. We look out for the victims after the fact, but who will stop the victimisation at its cause?
As a global community we must display both compassion and courage. Compassion without courage is too little too late (money and food will not bring back those hacked to death by machetes). Courage without compassion is reckless. We can either keep treating the symptoms or go after the cause. History repeats itself only because we keep repeating ourselves.
I recently read a powerful book on my Kindle reader, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, The making of a Navy SEAL. Here is a powerful presentation of a balanced view of courage and compassion towards world events. This is one of the most thought-provoking and hope filled books on the current world situation of hatred and terrorism against innocent people that I have read in a long time. It is as deeply philosophical, spiritual and as moving as Viktor Frankl’s holocaust essay, Man’s Search for Meaning.
It’s time we did the right thing and acted with both courage and compassion.
John R Childress