Our Humanity in the Balance

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OHIB Featured Member

Terry Nickelson (US)

I became sensitized to genocide 17 years ago while filming a documentary for UNHCR about the effects of genocide in Rwanda and on the refugees in the surrounding countries of Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania. It has rarely been far from my thoughts since. I have also spent extended periods in Burundi, Sri Lanka, DR Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq, so seeing the impact of unrestrained violence on civilian populations has reinforced my belief that it must be stopped.

With the spread of modern weapons and the breakdown of governments, genocide and atrocity crimes have increased. Civilian populations in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan, eastern Congo, Zimbabwe and Burma are being targeted with little effective response from the global community. New outbreaks of atrocity crimes are no longer surprising, nor are half hearted responses from the institutions whose charters were created to prevent such atrocities. Activist fatigue is common in the absence of successes. The world wants and needs a success.

Our Humanity in the Balance does not presume to have all the answers. Rather, we think new approaches should be considered. The refugee camps in Darfur, eastern Chad and elsewhere are brimming with children who have never seen their home villages and consider the blue plastic tents home; many will die too soon to know differently. For most refugees, life in the camps is a descent into Hell. Refugees are often malnourished and traumatized when they arrive, and may be separated from their families; they have few possessions, no work, no independence, and little hope. Children are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. The life of a refugee is perilous, stressful, and difficult, and no one would voluntarily choose to be a refugee. Empathy and compassion alone will not save them.

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