As the new year approaches, we cannot help but wonder what we regret doing in the previous year, and what we can do better in 2016.
When we look back to 2015, we see a difficult year full of violence and aggressive messages, not only from the general public, but from opinion leaders as well. In the United States alone, there were even a number of unbelievably racist commercials — some of them banned in the Super Bowl.
Racist attitudes trickled down to refugees who desperately required help when they were forced to leave their home countries, and politicians did little to ameliorate the effect that their arbitrary comments would have on the general public, who in many cases knows little or nothing at all about the problems in Syria.
Gov. Snyder did recant his initial “calling for a pause” in allowing a number of Syrian refugees into Michigan, and since then has tried to distance himself as much as possible from what he called during an interview with the Detroit Free Press, the “indecent rhetoric” by hard-core conservatives who continue to believe that the best way to win an election is by instilling fear in uninformed voters.
Still, there are others who continue to believe that every human being deserves to receive help and care, no matter who or where they may be.
Such is the case of the international non-profit humanitarian medical organization Médecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). Founded in Paris, France, in 1971, Médecins Sans Frontieres is a worldwide movement of 24 associations, with thousands of health professionals, logistical and administrative staff in about 70 countries worldwide. MSF provides assistance in the most controversial and dangerous areas in the world, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Yemen, asking for nothing more than donations to continue their selfless work on behalf of the local populations.
MSF receives no government funding and relies strictly on donations from private donors around the world to perform their dangerous mission. On October 3rd, 2015, 14 staff members of Médecins Sans Frontieres were killed during an attack by the U.S. armed forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and more than half a million people in the world continue to call on the White House to consent to an independent investigation on this military attack on the MSF hospital.
Today, MFS provides technical and medical support to over 150 medical facilities in Syria to help medics continue to run field hospitals and health clinics in highly troubled areas such as Aleppo, Daraa, Hama, Latakia, and others.
Médecins Sans Frontieres received the well deserved Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, and announced the money would go towards raising awareness and fighting against neglected diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.
Those who work for MSF are professionals and foreign and local volunteers who choose to devote their lives to the service of those who need it the most, no matter their creed or ethnicity.
“Our commitment is to medical ethics, to treat people on the basis of their needs regardless of whether they are on one side of a conflict or another, or on no side at all,” said Dr. Deanne Marchbein, president of MSF-USA. “This is how we bring medical care to the people who need it most, to people stuck in war zones who suffer the worst consequences of a conflict. This is what our colleagues gave their lives doing.”
Why not try to emulate the attitude and open mindedness of Médecins Sans Frontieres, instead of continuing to follow the rhetoric full of hatred, fear, and misinformation that we are fed everyday by special interest groups?
The 1983 Nobel Peace prize winner and Polish leader Lech Wałęsa called for a list of “secular Ten Commandments”. In response to that, the American Humanist Association later published “The Humanist Ten Commandments”, a list of beliefs and values based on the Kochhar Humanist Education Center’s “Ten Commitments”, that could help us all plan a new and more logical and humane course of action towards others in 2016.
THE HUMANIST TEN COMMANDMENTS
1) Thou shalt strive to promote the greater good of humanity before all selfish desires.
2) Thou shalt be curious, for asking questions is the only way to find answers.
3) Harm to your fellow human is harm to humanity. Therefore, thou shalt not kill, rape, rob, or otherwise victimize anyone.
4) Thou shall treat all humans as equals, regardless of race, gender, age, creed, identity, orientation, physical ability, or status.
5) Thou shalt use reason as your guide. Science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action.
6) Thou shalt not force your beliefs onto others, nor insist that yours be the only and correct way to live happily.
7) If thou dost govern, thou shalt govern with reason, not with superstition. Religion should have no place in any government which represents all people and beliefs.
8) Thou shalt act for the betterment of your fellow humans, and be, whenever possible, altruistic in your deeds.
9) Thou shalt be good to the Earth and its bounties, for without it, humankind is lost.
10) Thou shalt impart thy knowledge and wisdom gained in your lifetime to the next generation, so that with each passing century, humanity will grow wiser and more humane.
Happy New Year to all!