Thoughts on World Humanitarian Day

Painted red hands

We frequently hear of the amazing generosity of philanthropists and humanitarians who, through their positions of wealth and influence, are able to donate unimaginable sums of money to charitable causes close to their hearts. The names are well known: Buffet, Gates, Soros.

Others who have had as great a wealth of compassion and understanding but little money – such as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Oskar Schindler – have made an enormous and lasting impact on the human condition.

But there are many others we rarely hear about: those who are at the front line delivering the aid which has been put in motion by the wealth and kindness of others.

Today is World Humanitarian Day, the occasion when we remember those who work as humanitarians in areas of strife and hardship, in particular those who have lost their lives.

Most deaths of aid workers and peace keepers is from deliberate violence. Despite the legal basis for protection of humanitarian workers in armed conflicts being contained in the Geneva Convention, in practice they seem to be on their own. Wars have been largely replaced by an increased incidence of internal conflict and resulting violence and miscommunication, increasing the risk to civilians and humanitarian workers alike.

The latest verified figures relating to humanitarians come from 2015: 109 killed, 110 injured, 68 kidnapped (and survived). One third of deaths occur in the first three months of deployment, with 17% occurring within the first 30 days. Kidnapping is now prevalent.

These brave volunteers have the mental and moral strength to face danger, fear, and difficulty to help others in distress. Although no data is available about how many humanitarians meditate, they are examples on a macro scale of the compassion and open-heartedness which are some of the benefits from regular meditation.

Most of us are hard-wired to help others in distress, but recent appeals for help from charities have been blighted by fundraising tactics and mismanagement, making it difficult to be sure of how our donations are going to be used effectively.

Today, and for the rest of the week, if you see someone who needs help such as crossing the road, wanting directions, or help of any kind, step forward and assist not just for that person but to remember and honour those humanitarians who put themselves in extreme situations for days on end, at the risk of losing their lives.

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Anthony Thompson