A Wish for 2005
The year 2004 is coming to a close, to fade into history. It is a time when many of us are prone to take stock and express our hopes and desires for the future. Those who can afford will find refuge in this season of festivities and let desires negate hope and trump reality.
Last month Hindus celebrated Divali, the festival of lights; Muslims celebrated Eid, offering thanks after the month of Ramadhan. In December Jews celebrate Chanukah; and the Christians celebrate Christmas -- followed by the hope of renewal and a better future in year 2005, yet to unfold.
But will there be a renewal? The wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed more than one hundred thousand innocent lives and more will be killed in the coming year. There are other great humanitarian disasters, some simmering, some raging, overshadowed by the war in Iraq.
The wars and disasters are raging in Chechnya, Palestine, Darfur and Congo to name a few. Fortunately there are some brighter spots. India and Pakistan have found more humane leaders, therefore hapless people of Kashmir are doing better. Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo are on an upward trajectory. There are a million indignities heaped by the politically and militarily strong over the weak. Average, decent, hardworking people around the world are too busy making the two ends meet - oblivious that in their names, man-made calamities are stalking not so far off lands.
In this season of gaiety, we can hope for the betterment of the world. But hope is not enough; a tremendous amount of work is required. It is prudent to recognize the realities imposed by our present leaders, mostly because of our inaction. In the words of my brother, "The sins of the rich and powerful are visited on the poor and the weak".
This means the meek shall inherit the Earth, in a very distant future, if at all. Let us not hold our breath. While paying lip service, such ideas are against the policy of the present occupant of the White House as well as many other leaders. It is sad that they are depriving and killing the meek and the poor in the name of their religions, and it is even sadder that they know they can blind us by invoking the name of our religions.
Those who see injustice and keep quiet, end up being silent supporters of oppression, branded by the politicians as the silent majority. The "innocent" bystanders are no longer as innocent as they want to believe, especially in a democracy. If we do not object to our government's doing harm to others, at home and abroad, in the name of pre-emptive war, then we are guilty because in a democracy we are the government.
The convoluted definition of defense has become continuous offense, and unfortunately it is celebrated in the name of Nationalism. There are many decent people around the world who believe and practice the code, "Treat others the way you want to be treated". If we look carefully, such people are not hard to find in our communities. I have had the good fortune of knowing many such people from different countries and religions.
Let us find such people and help them work for a more caring and peaceful world. There are courageous people from all religions and those who do not subscribe to any religion, who are bravely and humanely struggling to make it a better world for all.
Hindus who worship "Bramha", the universal spirit, and work against the fascistic forces in India. Jews who resist all racism, not just anti-Semitism, and promote Palestinian rights. Muslims who resist oppressive, "Islamic regimes" and struggle for the rights of minorities. Christians who practice what Christ taught and not hegemonic interpretation of "The book of Revelation". Buddhists, Jains and those who practice to find peace for themselves and others. Those who do not practice any religion, but struggle for the dignity of all humans. Let us have hope, but more important, let us help those who refuse to keep quiet and dare to raise their voices against all oppressions, foreign and domestic, so that 2005 and the years to come may be more in line with our aspirations.
Mirza A. Beg
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