- Let us usher in the New Year soberly
The usual upheavals took place all over the world this year, natural disasters, terrorist attacks in which hundreds of people died, and agitation to protest various things.
Some of the largest protests the world has seen took place when women marched in many different countries including the United States, to protest against the election of Donald Trump as president. They were also marching in support of women’s rights, immigration, healthcare reform, the environment, LGBTQ rights, and freedom of religion, because Donald Trump in his various incoherent statements yet managed to make it abundantly clear that his stand on women’s rights and these other issues is wrong, and offensive.
In February North Korea fired a test ballistic missile resulting in worldwide condemnation, and afterwards Britain triggered Article 50, launching negotiations to discuss Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Also this year, the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIL base in Afghanistan. It also announced its decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
In an ongoing crisis that began many years ago, the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar were targeted by the army of that country in a process of ethnic cleansing that led to mass migration of that community, mostly to Bangladesh. This has now created a refugee crisis, the seriousness of which was highlighted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Earthquakes and hurricanes struck Mexico and the US causing extensive damage to life and property. Later in the year the US and Israel announced their decision to withdraw from UNESCO.
In Pakistan the prime minister was removed, yet another elected leader unable to complete his tenure.
And this month the US announced it was formally recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The announcement led to widespread condemnation of the decision all over the world, including in a formal vote in the United Nations.
In March of 2017, the UN warned of a massive humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the biggest such crisis since World War II. More than seven million people are at risk of starvation predominantly in Yemen, and also its neighbouring countries in Africa, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.
All that is most cruel is exposed in this crisis in Yemen, caused by a naval blockade put in place in 2015 by a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia that aims to prevent the Houthi Rebels in Yemen from gaining power. Mercifully Pakistan, that was invited to join the coalition declined when its Parliament did not sanction it. The blockade has left most of the population of Yemen deprived of sufficient food, water and medical aid. The economy has obviously suffered because the blockade prevents the movement of commercial ships as well as aid supplies.
The United Kingdom and the United States have been accused of supplying arms to this coalition.
Sunni/Wahabi Saudi Arabia fears that the rebels are supported by Iran, a Shia country. The starvation of millions of people can therefore be laid at the door of something as irrational as sectarian differences.
In Yemen, the parents of children such as two year old Shohud who weighs a mere 11lb, the four year old who weighs 16lbs, and Ayesha who weighed 7lbs at 21 months are not likely to care if a concert is bombed in Manchester killing several people. Government workers in Yemen who have not been paid for more than a year are not likely to give a second thought to the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. How would they, when they are in the midst of starvation, a dangerous exposure to cholera, and the resultant misery of deprivation and death?
To feel critical, angry, or else pleased at events not immediately affecting oneself is a luxury. It means you have the education, the awareness, the information and the leisure to feel dismay at Donald Trump’s election. You possess a modicum of security yourself if you feel sorry for the plight of the Rohingya, and you worry about losing that security by the ballistic missile fired by North Korea and the escalation of tensions between North Korea and the US. Such acts after all are in the interests of no one. If you feel that the leaders of a country need to display greater diplomacy and sense than that displayed the leaders of North Korea and the US, it is because you have the intelligence to understand this. You feel concern for those who lost their homes in the earthquakes and hurricanes because you yourself possess homes. If you are critical of the tax reforms in the US it is because you have the basic intelligence to perceive that its current government cares much more if not only for the wealthy than for the poor.
Therefore let us usher in the New Year soberly, giving a thought to those starving millions in Yemen, grateful for even our shambolic government and pathetic leadership. Let us feel grateful for the fact that we can condemn something that happens elsewhere in the world because it means we have the leisure to do so. May that condemnation and that gratitude lead us to do right by ourselves, and by everyone else in the coming year. Amen.