Will Sudan be the Gateway Drug for the Conversation around Humanitarian Crises around the World?
I have been so proud of every single one of my wonderful friends who have turned their profile picture blue on their social media platforms to stand in solidarity with Sudan.
I am yet to do so.
I love the idea of the profile picture change - standing in solidarity for a country which is currently facing real hardship with people dying, protesting for their chance at living in a transparently democratic society.
However, I cannot bring myself to do this when there are so many other countries around Africa and other parts of the world experiencing violence and disasters.
Earlier in the week, over 20 people were killed in northern Cameroon by Boko Haram. 160 people have died during fighting between ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last weekend, nearly 100 people were massacred in Mali - just one of many attacks over the past months, including an attack in March which resulted in the death of 160 civilians. People have died in further attacks in Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria. This is all just in the past week.
And that’s just the violence… That’s ignoring the landslides in Uganda, the famine in South Sudan, the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the protests in a number of other countries including Ethiopia.
And that’s just Africa. Not to mention the Middle East, South East Asia or South America.
It’s not Sudan the world is ignoring; it’s real turmoil.
People ask me why the Notre Dame fire received more media attention than any of the above crises. The fact of the matter is the rebuilding of a cathedral is an easy problem to fix. You throw money at it (even though no money has actually been paid by those millionaires and billionaires as of yet - only promised). The church gets rebuilt.
Yes, people can donate money to the problem in Sudan, but the problem doesn’t get fixed. You may be able to save some lives, which is so valuable because every life is important… but you don’t fix the systemic issue. This is not a problem that will go away with money.
And finding that solution is near impossible. Do you send in UN peacekeeping troops? Well, you would need consent from the military to do that. Do you send in troops from another country? That could lead to the issues we’ve seen in the West’s involvement in civil conflicts recently throughout the Middle East especially. Do you find someone to kill the leader of the military? The issue is systemic; it’s too late for that. There are multiple people leading the silencing of the protestors.
There isn’t an easy fix.
The media knows that as consumers, we like to keep up with the news but know there is a solution to issues. The media presents on what they believe will be easy for us to digest. And they are correct; many viewers will turn off their television when it comes to problems that are too complex for them to comprehend.
For whatever reason, the story of Sudan’s recent upheaval has resonated with people on social media. It could be due to the military severely limiting use of the internet in Sudan during this period of protests. But the fact is that Sudan’s events have caught the attention of people more than uprisings in other countries in recent months. And while it is sad that it’s taken this long for some people to be aware of what is happening around the world, this is a great opportunity for us all to become better educated global citizens.
Let Sudan be a gateway drug to caring about global politics and global humanitarian, environmental and economic crises. Let this be the start of your engagement with the rest of the world. We are able to develop telescopes powerful enough to find out what kind of substance makes up seas on Jupiter (we’re pretty sure it’s sodium chloride by the way), but we are still unable to develop a way to end these kind of conflicts on Earth. We need to give the same attention and resources to social science to what we are committing to STEM.
If we become more aware of the issues people are facing around the world, we are going to be better equipped to talk about these, leading to better education around these issues, which will allow us to actually come up with a plan on how to take action in times of need.
This crisis needs to be taken seriously by companies operating in Sudan and other countries affected by unrest as part of their economic, social and environmental sustainability commitment as it directly affects their operations. While turning your profile picture blue is an admirable first step, let’s take the next step in activism.
Money talks - it’s the companies that have all the power. So get typing! Write an email or letter to these companies saying that you would like them to show leadership and take action on the crisis in whichever country that company is operating which needs humanitarian aid. Make sure the letter is polite and positive; we are trying to form a global community to work together to create a better world, not against each other to cause more division in society.
You've got the world listening with your blue profile pictures; let's make a real difference from here. Let's take that 10 minutes out of our day to write something. Even if you don't want to actually write something or you don't know how, don't be afraid to ask someone - including me - to draft something for you to send.
Also use this opportunity to be mindful of your news channels. If you are reading a newspaper or following a news site which doesn't include information about what is happening in Sudan or in any of the countries I mentioned above, it's time to change where you get all your information. As an Australian citizen and resident, I read the Australian newspaper for all of my Australian news, but I read Al Jazeera for my world news. I find them to be the two most reliable sources of information, and they cover all of the big topics.
The onus is on us to seek this information where possible. It's up to us to ensure we are pledging to do whatever is in our power to help, and it is up to us to care for one another. If it was us in the same situation, we would want the rest of the world to be doing what they can for us. Let's step up for our brothers and sisters globally.