Rubble and Broken Lives
June 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
My sense of humanity remains untouched. But my ability to assume that people have good intentions has definitely been hampered by all the things that I’ve seen. It does make me question humanity as a whole, and how, in spite of all of human kind’s achievements and advancements… barbaric acts of war continue to be implement and used, and how people actually believe that violence is a means to peace. – Kate Brooks, Photojournalist
It’s a reasonable quandary: the non-linear logic of healing conflict with violence. And yet it exists and allows violence persist. Perhaps this is because, aside from the manifold reasons that one might first become involved in a conflict1, eventually conflict can become a part of one’s identity. And although new information technologies (such as youtube, texting, twitter, and GIS) can prevent some acts of violence, these same technologies can also fail to alter the cultural norms and citizen identities that become entwined with and eventually entrench conflict over years. In fact, these technologies can engrain rather than excise such identities by allowing people to rally and polarize around them. In a recent post on A View from the Cave, Andrew Blum of the US Institute of Peace highlighted that there is more to the prevention of violence than the mere acquiring of information:
Atrocity prevention from the local to the international level is an intensely and inherently political process. Those working on atrocity prevention must find creative ways to confront illegitimate authority, disrupt the configuration of identities that contribute to violence, and craft new means to provide legitimate authority for those with the power to prevent atrocities.
The desire, in other words, for a simple solution to an entrenched conflict (physical or ideological) is likely frivolous. The conflict in Syria, for example, burns on and who knows precisely how or when it will end (though likely not soon). Thousands of families have been swept into this war(s) by the persuasion to catalyze change, defend their rights, seek revenge, or merely survive and keep their family safe. Whatever the case, this war and its causes have become a part of many people’s identity.
So what to do?
Surely one thing to do is to refrain from expressions of simple solution. But another is to maintain hope, because hope prospers an endurance to care for those innocently involved. The humanitarian needs evidenced in a conflict like Syria are certainly ‘complex’, but this complexity shouldn’t strike paralysis into aid organizations and the donors who support them.
Today it is estimated that 6.8 million (one in four) Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. By year end, there are expected to be 3.85 million Syrian refugees. That is approximately equivalent to the entire population of Oregon being displaced on foot with little to no provisions. In April of 2013, Syrian refugees had already increased the population of Lebanon by 10%.
“On 7 June, the UN and its partners launched the largest appeal for humanitarian funding in history: US$4.4 billion to help Syrian refugees and people in need inside of Syria, as well as $830 million to help the Jordanian and Lebanese governments cope with this crisis over the course of 2013. The appeal replaces an earlier appeal for $1.5 billion for aid operations in the first half of the year” (cite).
This need is effect of the conflict, and of the massacre, torture and other human rights violations that accompany it. Entangled though it may be with an intervention, we should not allow humanitarian aid to dry up as the number of those in need continues to surge. As one development blogger notes, “Donor fatigue is leading to less money available and causing relief agencies to look to non-traditional partners, like Coca Cola, for funding and support” (cite). Don’t think for a second that Coca Cola wouldn’t care if you, a potential customer, took the time tell them your approval of their donations.
The war in Syria is not likely to end soon or simply, but I can think of three simple actions that can be taken very soon. They will take one hour or less and will allow you to say that you’ve done something with regard to the millions of families affected by the Syrian war: (1) learn more, (2) give*, and (3) ask others (i.e. politicians or companies) to give via email, mail, or phone. The companies you buy from and the politicians that represent you care what your think about them and about what they do. Be a actor in the international community your are inherently a part of.
The Bell Tolls, this time (again) for Syria.
* Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Borders (read their mission), IRC, Save the Children, Islamic Relief Worldwide, OxFam, Red Cross/Red Crecent, etc.
1Imagine conflict springing up around you and your family; in your very city without your provocation. Can you predict what would you do to protect your family? I can’t.
2A thought question: does the fact that the Syrian civil war is happening in Syria (with a multitude of splinter rebel groups) inhibit your donating, even if that donation goes to reputable humanitarian group such as the International Red Cross? Listen here for a similar conversation: