August 19 is World Humanitarian Day
World Humanitarian Day is a day of hope and of encouragement. When we look at the world news, we can easily believe that respect for human life and dignity is a lost cause.
We read that in Afghanistan, the opposing sides had to actually sign an agreement not to bomb schools, in the United States, hundreds of children are locked up in crowded camps awaiting deportation, that mosques and churches are bombed in many nations.
We also hear appalling stories of abuse of children, the exploitation of the elderly and the neglect of the poor in our own neighbourhoods.
In the face of all this bad news, it is encouraging to realise that so many people and organisations refuse to accept that any human beings are expendable and give their heart, their energies and their voices to support strangers who are in need.
They visit the sick, run clinics in neglected villages, nurse victims of war and famine, protest against the brutality of governments and demand respects for the human rights of the despised.
World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to celebrate the goodness of so many generous people. It reminds us also of the goodness of ordinary people and of the sacrifices they make to support others. It encourages us not to give up on the human race.
We can also be encouraged by this because the diversity of the backgrounds and the motivation of people who put themselves out to help and support people who are in need. We are reminded of how much we have in common with colleagues with whose ideas we may disagree. We find ourselves humbled by their goodness.
Many of us who attend rallies for refugees or concerts for sick children find ourselves surrounded by the banners of Christians from different churches, of Buddhists, Muslims, LGBT people, vegans, unionists, lawyers, humanists, and by so many people who march under no particular banner. We are united by a common dedication to humanity.
At Jesuit Social Services, we are constantly inspired to find that the diversity of our religious background and experience flows into a common passion to accompany people who are vulnerable and into gratitude for the community that we form. That is the highest tribute to the Christian tradition that we have inherited.
Underlying World Humanitarian Day is the conviction that each human being is precious, not because of the groups they belong to, nor because of their race, gender, wealth, good deeds, intelligence and good fortune, but simply because they are human.
Because we depend on one another for life and prosperity we recognise that we also have a responsibility for one another to look out for one another, and to ensure that all people are protected by the rule of law and have access to food, shelter, medical care, education and opportunity to contribute to society.
Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ writes for Jesuit Communications and Jesuit Social Services.