I don’t suppose that many people in the Sichuan province of China have ever heard of Cleethorpes, yet, as they grappled with the devastating effects of last week’s earthquake, we were drawn into the horror of their situation. In the same way, the plight of the cyclone struck areas of Burma has been part and parcel of our news and headlines and we have recoiled at the inhumanity of the Burmese Generals who would prefer to see their people suffer rather than allow foreign aid workers into their country.
This instant knowing about what is happening thousands of miles away is a feature of our times. It is not just about the news stories – the success or failure of harvests on the other side of the world affect us and, of course, we are all feeling the effects of poor mortgage decisions made across the Atlantic – and suddenly the phrase ‘sub-prime’ has become part of our vocabulary. In so many ways we have become not just a global village, but a global family.
As people of the twenty-first century, we cannot cocoon ourselves from the rest of the world. When the TV cameras in China turned to the parents whose children were crushed to death when the earthquake demolished their school, the heart of every parent across the world went out to them. Distance, colour, race and belief became irrelevant in the face of human anguish and the differences between people were shown to be literally skin-deep.
We face so many challenges of global proportions – climate change, food shortages, economic cycles, the soaring price of oil, etc. Yet there are still those who would use the differences between peoples as their platform to gain political position and power.
The international response to the natural disasters of the past couple of weeks is a powerful reminder of the folly of those who believe that we can ‘go it alone’ in the modern world. The challenges which face every race and nation, whether they are natural disasters, economic reversals or climatic change, need a global way of thinking. As we have seen in Burma – narrow, self-seeking agendas just compound the problems and the suffering, because they have no answers in the face of global realities. We are the human family and we mustn’t allow superficial, skin-deep differences to drive us apart.