Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…
Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- 10 December 1948, Paris
Every day for the past two weeks, I walk by a lose metal plate in the road, and every time a car goes over it its makes a loud bang and my heart jumps, every time even when I know its coming. I think of the people who live right next to the road, how disconcerting it must be for them to sleep through a busy thoroughfare with every other car causing that bang. And then this morning, I walked past and there was no bang. Someone called up the council and they came out and fixed the problem whilst we slept. Comfort brought on by security in our rights thanks to the society we live in.
Now I think of that bang and multiply it by a hundred and it doesn’t equate to the sounds of bombs children in war torn countries have to listen to every day, and it will never, because I envision theirs to be much worse, with no one to call to complain about the noise levels; this is their every day.
When history writes about us, she won’t be kind, she won’t be forgiving. When the future looks back to our present, its past, when it judges us by the content of our character it will do so harshly, and we would deserve her scorn. Dead bodies of children too young to know such horrors are washing up on our shores yet the powers that be debate their fate, whether to open the doors to them or keep them out with the depravity not of their doing. Homes have been reduced to ashes from fires set by bombs, all hope of home, lost, cries to the West go almost unanswered. Humanitarians and civilians continuously decry governments for turning their backs on those in desperate need of our help, but nothing. Nothing a deafeningly defining moment in our history.
What is wrong with us? We use to be better than this. We used to be good at being human. We used to be compassionate and loving to our fellow men, women and children. Where did we go so wrong? How?
When I was eighteen years old, I left my then home for a new life and a new home, the road before me was mapped out and certain because I was headed for a better life. Life as I knew it then was filled with uncertainty; getting an education, if one could, was no guarantee to employment, basic amenities like light was a luxury, life was harried, government corrupt, I saw two coup attempts and lived several years under the military junta. My parents decided enough was enough, I graduated from secondary school and was shipped off to England. I had families on both sides of the Atlantic so in more ways than one, I was heading home away from home. A place that would eventually be my home. New friends to make, new places to know, new faces amongst the old, new traditions, and a new way of life. Newness that was tempered by the fact that I would be around family.
On the 26th of June 1945, in the wake of WWII, 50 states gathered together at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Centre, in San Francisco United States, under the umbrella of the United Nations, to sign the UN Charter. The 51st state, Poland, signed it later. In the treaty were these guiding principles:
- To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.
- To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.
- To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.
- To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
In order to safeguard the principles above, they agreed to these practises;
- To practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.
- To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.
- To ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.
- To employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
In the wake of WWII some 40 million people were displaced from their homes, the biggest international crisis until today when the UN has estimated that more than 60 million people have fled their homes because of conflict, natural disasters or famine. We speak in estimates because they don’t know the exact number but it appears to be growing by the day, as long as political indifference to the conflicts raging the world over continues, that number will only continue to grow. While some member states of the UN bear the brunt of the crisis, others like the UK, shirk responsibility as we grapple with the crisis at home. Namely, BREXIT, a vote which heavily touted immigration as one of the reasons for the UK exiting the European Union. With countries refusing to bear an equal share of the crisis, those who have, do so under enormous strain of infrastructural collapse if this issue persist. But it seems, in an organisation formed under the unilateral agreement of human decency and a shared belief in global responsibility, promotion of peace and security, is a victim of anarchy from its member nation states.
Being a refugee in a land unknown to one is daunting enough without the world giving you its cold shoulder. Thousands of refugees have died and thousands more will die as they make the crossing on the wild seas to get to safety, dangerous journeys in search of a better life, some, if lucky, accompanied by their families, what awaits them on the other end, if they get there, is unknown. That better life I was afforded when I left a structurally unpredictable country at worse, is not guaranteed for them. I saw violence and conflict, but nothing compared to what these refugees of today have had to live with, to witness. Nothing like what children who have only ever known violence in a short space of their lives live with everyday. Imagine waking up to the sounds of bombs, falling asleep in rubble never knowing if you will see morning. Imagine being a child, all of five or younger, whose only reality is death and suffering, imagine asking the world to save you and the door being shut in your face over and over, simply because of a difference in geography. Imagine eventually making it onto this safe land only to be made to feel like an outsider, blamed for the violence and suffering you have endured simply because of your religion. Imagine living in the face of such hate, every day. Victims of war, not of their own making, trapped in this world. An endless cycle of torture passed on from border to border, hoping for a place to call home even for one night, no refuge in sight. In the biting cold of winter, the blistering heat of the summer, they have walked a thousand miles in search of shelter. More children’s dead bodies wash up ashore as the world looks on in horror, raise our voices and use our pens to chastise those we have elected to positions of power, who refuse to act and do what they have been tasked to do. Compassion might be the simplest of concepts but we are world in serious shortage of it at a moment when we need it the most. Europe sits in deliberation, taking its time but this war rages on, urgent like a motherfucker, the palaver plagued EU sits in contemplation as if making moves on a chess board with human lives. Children die. Families are torn apart. Women are raped and enslaved. Men, frustrated and shamed. Time is ticking but nothing is coming of it.
Nothing will be our legacy.
One never flees home unless home is the eye of a storm, a raging fire, a monster. In an ideal world, we should all just get along, respect one another, cultures, religions, race, sex, class, but the world is not ideal and the West has more than a hand in that, it has A LOT to answer for the current travesty. Hate and ignorance have become the rules of thumb from elected officials, they seek division where electorates hope to unite, atone for the sins of our fathers and heal like the hands of our mothers. We pray for for unity and courage, and for the voices of our outcry to win the war on this new type of normal, which shouldn’t be. I hope the future will see some of this when it seeks to take us to task about the state in which we handed the world over to them.
Refugee; in its simplest form is one who seeks refuge in a foreign land when home is no more. When I walk past that plate tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that, I’ll think of those who go to sleep shrouded by chaos, with bangs of bombs as their wake up call, and once again, I’ll say a prayer for World Peace and hope God is listening.