Two sleeps ago, news broke across the world that 82 kidnapped schoolgirls of Chibok were finally being returned home to their families after over a year in the horrific hold of Boka Haram. The exhausted sounds of cries of relief of families in Nigeria were audible around the globe. Quiet yet firm pride was rightly demonstrated by government officials as they conveyed their confidence that these were the girls who were taken from their lives and loved ones while simply trying to learn, resolute in their determination to see all stolen girls safely returned home. The strength of the embraces the girls received from loved ones no doubt penetrated their bruised hearts and minds, starting the process of healing…putting to an end the horror of over 1000 days as captives.
12 hours ago, as the people of France confirmed their choice of President, sounds of relief and celebration could be heard across the European Union and even nations further afield. As the sound of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy‘ – the anthem of the European Union – filled the Paris night air, Emmanuel Macron, the youngest President since Napoleon, calmly took to the stage in front of the Pyramide du Louvre. Crowds thousands strong roared with youthful applause. Powerful symbolism, penetrating signs of change, putting to an end the fears of rising populism, with its risks of break-away of the country from the EU. And the French people from one another.
Two distant, dramatically different parts of the world. One thought: “Oh thank God….”
Once again, the world was watching as events in one nation spilled out emotional and ideological waves in all directions, borders between countries and continents washed away. Why the anxious global gaze? There need not be a reason for the ties that bind people across nations, as different as they may be in language, location, beliefs or backgrounds. Because these are our girls. These are our elections. What happens matters to us all.
Especially when risk is seen, felt, of breaking the bonds that keep our world moving forward as one.
The past year has given voice to deep, desperate frustrations of people feeling lost and left behind. Challenges to traditional political systems and structures have put entire populations in a position of vulnerability, not just in terms of how the nation looks at its relationship with the world, but how the people of the country look at one another. First Brexit, then US Presidential Elections, both events a frightening reflection of the fact that separation has become a selling point. The contagion has continued to spread, European elections putting forward fiery rhetoric encouraging nationals to vote to put their countries first, not caring about the value their neighbours bring to their lives. Especially when their neighbours have recently moved in next door after running for their loves from the place they ‘home.’
But with the choice to go it alone comes the reality of aloneness – economically, socially and spiritually. Insecurity, at all levels, only grows. No walls can keep out the fears of what is on the other side. Only doorways that allow the other side to come in open nervous minds to the knowledge needed to know that one can absolutely love and trust thy neighbour.
Nations need one another. Cultures need one another. People need one another. It is through our erasing borders that we find an access point to our better selves.
What value is all of the technology, all of the travel, we have in our lives is not to bring us closer? To enable us to learn more about one another, love more about one another?
As the Chibok schoolgirls find their way back home, babies in the arms of many – little souls representing the heroic spirit of a new generation – their nation is there to help them put back together the pieces of their shattered lives, while continuing to search for the others left behind. Each and every one a very real reminder of how vital it is for the world to never let a person, a nation, feel they are forgotten.
There is no power of one when it means turning one’s back on the ones who count on us. Nations, whether protecting schoolgirls or protecting economic and social structures, can and must do better. Citizens must do better.
It is not just the strength of the body of the global community, with its vital organs of the global economy and global security, that depend on it – it is the strength of the global heart.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2017