Hope glimmering, needs to be fanned

Friday 01/01/2016

The year just ended was historic in the many ills mankind inflicts on itself. The war in Syria was emblematic, with its horrific multisided conflict that includes an abusive regime and the Islamic State (ISIS), a terrorist group so ghastly many consider Bashar Assad, accused of killing thousands of his own people, a preferable option.

That war, combined with a lack of op­portunity elsewhere in the region, led to one of the largest mass migrations in history. Hundreds of thousands fled, an exodus that continues. Facing treacherous sea crossings or equally demanding treks over thousands of miles of land, refugees faced unbelievable hardship rather than deal with un­bearable oppression and violence at home.

When host countries had trouble dealing with the sheer number of refugees, camps often became squalid, with disease rampant. In­ternational and non-governmental organisations could not keep up with the demand for aid. Their tasks were hampered by wide­spread apathy — one of the world’s greatest offences.

Political unrest, some involving armed battles, marked many coun­tries. The lack of opportunity for a productive life made many young people ripe targets for extremists and willing partners in terrorism at home and abroad.

The Greek myth of Pandora has her opening a container, allowing all the world’s ills — death, sick­ness, poverty, hunger and more — to escape. Those afflictions seemed to settle over the Middle East and North Africa like a thick, suffocat­ing cloud in 2015.

However, the last spirit out of Pandora’s jar was Elpis, the embod­iment of hope. This is mankind’s greatest asset. Hope brings light to darkness. Hope allows us to see past adversity and sense that relief, safety and peace are possible.

Hope glimmered by the end of 2015. There were talks concerning the war in Yemen and the political deadlock in Libya. There were ne­gotiations bringing together many of the factions involved in the Syr­ian fighting. The Tunisian Quartet was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize, a concrete affirmation that the democratic experiment in Tunisia was not unnoticed.

There was an outpouring of concern for refugees. The guiding light here was Germany, under Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose actions eased the humanitarian crisis. Berlin said it expected more than 800,000 asylum applications in 2015.

Despite myriad pitfalls and snares hampering progress, people still turn to hope that the fate of the region would turn. It was des­peration that drove the refugees to leave their ancestral homes but they were shepherded by hope. Hope, for many, is a last refuge.

Many, assuredly, gave in to despair, believing that even hope was no longer an option. This is the most concerning situation. When hope no longer exists, those creat­ing desperation and despondency have won.

This cannot be allowed to hap­pen. The region’s true leaders — those who respect their people and honour the mantle of authority — must show there is a way from the gloom of 2015. The rest of the world must support — with words, certainly, but also materially — those leaders and their people.

If 2105 was noted for despair, all people must do whatever is pos­sible to make 2016 a glowing exam­ple to lead those in such desperate need towards the light that is hope. It is the humane — and human — thing to do.