Saturday, 18 March 2017

It can’t come soon enough

The United Nations is trying to galvanise the world into rapid action on four separate areas of famine, each of which is progressively getting worse at present. Film is shown on television, of malnourished and even starving children, their mothers having had to endure months of watching their offspring suffer. There are inadequate supplies of both medicine and food and the UN is appealing to the countries of the world for help. As mankind is one extended family, these people are our relations, and our common humanity makes it essential that we do what we can to help. People need feeding now – help can’t come soon enough.

The four countries most at risk are four separate cases. Somalia has had no significant rain for three years. This is fundamentally due to geophysical causes. The spinning of the earth produces different wind patterns at different latitudes. Countries just north of the Equator, such as Somalia, have predominately north-easterly winds. These winds tend to come from desert areas, and have not always had chance to pick up much water. The rainfall from these winds is therefore rather unpredictable. Somalis have historically had to make do with this pattern of uncertain rainfall, and still find ways to survive. However, in recent times, things have been made worse by years of fighting – first between different clans, and now between “religious” militants and those wishing to re-establish order. This fighting forces people off the land.

The other three cases are almost entirely man-made problems. In Nigeria the problem is largely “religious” militants again. An amoral self-obsessed group seeks to impose its will on the population of north-eastern Nigeria and on neighbouring countries through death and destruction, kidnap and terror. In this part of the world, the governments are now collaborating in combatting the extremists, but the damage to the towns and villages has already been done, and many people are dispossessed and starving.

In the case of South Sudan, we are endlessly being told that the world’s “newest country” is already divided, as if this is a new problem. In reality, the two biggest tribes there have been in conflict for years. During the decades of fighting against the Khartoum government of northern Sudan, these tribes were often also fighting one another. The loyalty to the tribe and to its political leader needs to be replaced by a loyalty to this new nation and its flag. It cannot come soon enough. Bahá’u’lláh’s statement, "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established," applies at the national level, just as much as it does at the world level.

Yemen is the only one of the four in which external power politics play an important role. But again, the fundamental cause is the lack of unity within the country. First there are the “rebels”, who are from a religious minority which has felt marginalised and poorly treated. However, fighting alongside them are other factions who still support the president who was deposed in 2012. Ranged against them are those parts of the population which support the new president. The other countries in the region support either one side in the war or the other, and there is an effective blockade to stop all economic activity, normal food imports and even the food aid and medicinal supplies. The result is that there are a huge number of people starving. Those with a political agenda do not care enough about the population to bring about a cessation of hostilities.

The answers to these conflicts are varied and complex in political terms, but the underlying change in the way we all view one another is simple in essence. When visiting London, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who was Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son, stated clearly: “The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.”

It can’t come soon enough.


(In the UK, donations to the appeal can be made via