Our world is a more connected place. Modern media has obliterated the idea of localized events. Horror can be seen easily in all parts of the world and that has destroyed our excuse of “not knowing.” Now we know everything, so when we see horror we have no excuse but to act.
Look at how our world has changed. During the Black Death, a massive plague that killed millions, none of the wealthy nobles donated money to help the peasants who were dying in droves. When the Mongols swept their scythe of death across Asia, no one went into the war zones to help the people. When plague struck London in the 16th century, not only did Elizabeth I flee the city but she ordered her guards to hang anyone who followed her. From that time, we reached the Irish potato famine, a catastrophe which killed a million people. The world didn’t turn away. The eyes of the entire world weren’t fixated on Ireland, but people helped. Not much help came, but in a world of war, racism and colonialism, people didn’t forget about Ireland. More Irish fled, looking for a new home and often times people didn’t want them. They said they would take away our jobs and change our culture or bring trouble to our home. These are the same excuses for in-action that we still hear today.
The world changed and slowly compassion grew. The horrors of the holocaust were a wake up call. The holocaust taught us the price of inaction. Since World War II our compassion has only grown. In Ethiopia, Somalia, the west is intervening more and more for humanitarian reasons. Yet, we don’t always get it right. For many years, we looked away when confronted by horrors, but most of the time we do our best to solve them. Our best isn’t always good enough but we try—most of the time. There are the times we do nothing.
Rwanda, 1994. One of the worst genocides since World War II and one that the West knew about. Modern media existed yet we did nothing. Humanitarian agencies such as MSF remained there during the genocide and lost over a hundred workers. Inaction by the west allowed this to happen.
In the past few decades humanitarian aid has gone to the most dangerous places in the world. Brave women and men have gone into the war zones of Libya and Syria, the disasters-ravaged nations of Haiti and Nepal and into the heart of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Our support is critical for the continued success of these missions. We can help those who cannot help themselves and if we don’t help, we have seen the consequences in Rwanda. The situation in Syria and Iraq is just as critical, and if we don’t help those trapped in war zones, who knows what happens next?
—by R. Hamilton