Thursday , December 14 2017

‘The Other’ in us all … build bridges, not walls

Once again the Holy Month of Ramadan is upon us. Like every year Muslim faithfuls are called to do some soul searching while praying and fasting. Fasting eases the temptations of the flesh and forces the believer to get closer to Allah the Creator.

This year Ramadan comes at a time when suffering has become pervasive in many parts of the Arab world. In Syria, the war is still going on with all its attendant lot of misery pain and death. Millions of Syrians were forced to become refugees inside or outside their country.

Refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have become a synonym of uprootedness and pain. We are witnessing a new era of rampant misery. Syrian refugees are parked in camps as in Jordan or have spread throughout the country as in Lebanon. Lebanese feel that they have been made to pay the highest cost of the Syrian disaster. Many in the Land of Cedars complain that they cannot find work in their own country. Thus, leaving Lebanon has become one option. Another option includes protesting the current economic morass in a country exhausted by years of war and refugees.

Syrian refugees then opted for exile and they headed West to Europe and most precisely to Germany. Angela Merkel extended the welcome mat to almost 1 million refugees creating a sense of unease, if not protest, among not only the Germans but also Greeks and Hungarians. Greece, Hungary and other European countries had a mixed reaction. Either you expel the refugees, provide hospitality or let then drown in the Mediterranean. Here Cain’s words come dramatically to mind: “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?”

Refugees from the East, from Syria, Afghanistan or other challenged places force us to rethink our humanity and our compassion. Two options are available. Either you accept suffering human beings or you force them out.

In this case the Other, the refugee,  reminds us of our roots. In a sense we are all refugees on this planet. Some of us were lucky enough to settle and become productive in peaceful societies. Others are still suffering from the scourge of war. Why is it that humans refuse to build bridges? Why is it easy to reject the Other?

In Europe and the USA today Arab and Muslims are perceived as a threat. They force the West to question the meaning of liberalism and human rights. From bridges we are now building walls. Walls are a confession of defeat and intellectual bankruptcy.

I can venture by making a parallel with the white man’s conquest of Africa and the Americas. Millions died at the altar of a questionable civilizing mission. Since the beginning of the colonial conquest the world has gone through several convulsions. The latest being World War I,  World War II and the various conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Let us during this Ramadan search our souls to be seekers of roots and bridge builders.

Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. If not my home will turn into an unending hell.

This planet is ours whether we are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or on whatever spiritual route consolidates our compassion and humanity and leads us to peace.

To my Muslim Sisters and Brothers have a blessed Ramadan!

Dr George Emile Irani, a Lebanese American, teaches International Relations at the American University of Kuwait

By George Emile Irani, PhD

 

 

 

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