This I Believe

Sunita - Khartoum, Sudan
Entered on September 4, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I recently read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and found myself swept up in the philosophy that we each have a personal calling or a driving force – something that “fills us with enthusiasm.” For me that force is a belief in our greater humanity and the powerful strength of empathy. I find this comforting when considering the state of the world today, serving as a glimmer of hope that eventually conflicts will be resolved if greater compassion is cultivated.

I have been working in Sudan for a humanitarian aid organization since July and find that comprehending the conflict in Darfur is impossible. How can one understand that more than 3 million people have been forced from their homes? Or that some 400,000 people have died as a result of violence and resulting malnutrition and disease? Or that the world has done nothing to stop this?

The problem seems, to me, that human beings, though all of us are human beings, are able to live our lives without empathy for others. If the leader of a militia felt compassion for those in the nearby village, it is unlikely that he would find the strength to attack that village. However, given that most conflicts are driven by desires for power and wealth, the leader is not prone to be overtaken by empathy for this village and thus, the attack will occur and people will be left displaced and without any means to speak out.

And so I believe that we, as fellow human beings, have a responsibility to act and speak up for those who are unable.

Within every society, be it peaceful or in conflict, there are those who have no voice. In some, it is the poor; in others, it is women; in others still, it is the children; and in yet others, it is a different group altogether. Taking up this responsibility can mean doing something within your own community, helping within your nation, or working to give a voice to someone a world away from the one you know. But whatever that action is, it is important.

Sudan has a generation who only will know war, instability, and fear and there is no sign that things will change any time soon. In IDP camps and throughout Sudan, kids have no say in whether the fighting will continue or whether their lives will remain disrupted. And yet, they retain brilliant smiles, play football with friends, and try to survive. For their sake and for the millions more affected by the conflicts here, I hold on to hope and continue to work—believing in my responsibility to do what I can.