It seems as though the last twelve months have brought one calamity after another – some caused by nature and some entirely manmade. It hasn’t all been gloom and doom though, because out of all the carnage and heartbreak there have emerged many acts of unity, heroism and genuine kindness. Like this church in Cambridge that came to the aid of Muslims in their community or these organisations who made a generous donation “to help Detroiters without water”. The year started with women around the world wearing hijab for a day to show solidarity with and express their support for Muslim women, a trend that picked up again in the wake of the recent Paris attacks and rising Islamophobic hate crime. Through the rest of the year, it would appear that the world is not as heartless as we might have come to believe, and I am hoping this list will prove it. Here’s a list of 10 things that happened in 2015 that may just restore your faith in humanity:
*Warning: reading this may result in a warm, fuzzy feeling and an uncontrollable urge to say “awww” every few seconds!*
1. Charleston – On the 17th of June, the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina was the scene of a horrific shooting, a racist act of terrorism where nine Black people lost their lives. Following this tragic incident, a string of fires burnt more Black churches to the ground. In the wake of these fires, a number of charities and religious institutions raised money to help rebuild these churches. This was a real example of communities coming together to help one another, without any ulterior motives.
2. Kuwait – On the 26th of June, a Shia Muslim mosque in Kuwait was attacked by a suicide bomber, as a result of which dozens were killed and injured. The Kuwaiti government managed to show some actual humanity and arranged for some of the bodies of the victims to be flown to the Peace Valley cemetery in the city of Najaf, Iraq. To be buried there is considered a great honour for Shia Muslims, and for a Sunni leader to not only acknowledge but also facilitate this is indeed an act of kindness worth mentioning. Even better, though, was this show of intra-faith unity, as different sects came together to offer prayers and show solidarity with their Shia brethren in the wake of these attacks.
Also on 26th June, an attack on a beach in Tunisia resulted once again in the loss of innocent lives. The Tunisian people, in a show of unity and solidarity, held a candle light vigil and also organised an interfaith meal in remembrance of the victims. According to Tunisian Mufti Hamda Said, this was “an effort to unify religions in order to achieve peace in the world.” And then we have the real-life heroes who formed a human chain and stood up to the attacker – cue the waterworks *sniff*.
Around the same time as the above events, a severe heat wave struck this Pakistani city and its neighbouring areas, claiming over one thousand lives in the process. In the wake of this crisis, the Pakistani government failed to do much more than offering lip service and appearing for photo-ops – no surprises there. From amidst the chaos emerged the voice and actions of Mohammad Jibran Nasir, managing trustee of the Elaj Trust. Nasir, the Elaj Trust and the citizens of the world stepped up and raised enough funds to provide various basic facilities that were lacking in one of Karachi’s biggest hospitals. This was pretty heroic stuff, and I’m almost certain Nasir now roams the streets of Karachi at night with a mask and some sort of superhero costume.
5. HONY in Pakistan – Everyone loves Humans of New York, right? And here’s why – the stories that accompany these pictures are magical. These stories of success and failure, of love and heartbreak, remind us that even people in unfamiliar countries and places have the same highs and the same lows in life; they remind us of our humanity.
Take this picture, for example, of Syeda Ghulam Fatima who has worked tirelessly to end bonded labour in Pakistan. Not four days after HONY’s Brian Stanton launched a campaign to help Ghulam Fatima, he had raised over two million USD! While you swoon over the kindness of the people who played a part in this whirlwind fundraiser, you can read more about it here. Are you feeling warm and fuzzy yet?
6. Lebanon – This photo of a Syrian refugee dad selling pens on the streets of Beirut went viral, and I mean breaking-the-internet type viral.
Many people sympathised with the image but one person, Gissur Simonarson, actually did much more. He created the Twitter account @buy_pens and started an online fundraising campaign. His target was a mere $5,000 USD, but people from all over the world opened their hearts and their wallets and donated so generously that by the time it closed, the campaign had raised over $180,000! The story continues here… and they lived happily ever after *sniff*.
7. Calais – and other places in the EU experienced an unprecedented influx of refugees fleeing violence and repression from countries like Syria, Sudan and Eritrea. It has been called a humanitarian crisis, and many organisations, individuals and charities have taken it upon themselves to volunteer their skills, time and effort to provide aid to these refugees in Calais and Lesvos as well as on the Hungarian border. Those who couldn’t physically be there did the next best thing which is start a fundraising campaign or donate to an already existing one. When you have ordinary individuals so willing to help complete strangers in this way, especially as almighty nation states stand by and do nothing, you know that there is still some good in this world.
8. Chennai – Towards the end of November, unprecedented rainfall caused major flooding in Chennai, India and once again lives were lost and destruction caused. This is a story I mostly followed on Facebook thanks to friends who have links in Chennai. Rescue and aid missions mobilised almost as soon as reports of flooding started coming in. Families were distributing food on the streets, a local pizza place was converted into a coordination centre for volunteers and a Muslim group even volunteered to clean a Hindu temple that had been damaged by the floods. The people of Chennai put aside their differences and showed true brotherhood and humanity during this crisis and came together to help one another… awww! *heart emoji*
9. San Bernardino – Another more recent tragic incident took place on the 2nd of December, the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Despite the carnage brought about by the incident, once again this event succeeded in bringing communities and people together. If last year charity sky-dives and mountain climbs were all the rage, this year it seems to be charity fundraisers. A family-centred organisation in California raised over $20,000 within just 24 hours of launching a fundraiser for the victims’ families. Definitely aww-worthy.
10. Syria – A day after the San Bernardino attack, Cameron and his ilk decided to go ahead with carrying out airstrikes on Syria. Waging war against a country already devastated by war, no points for guessing who thought this was a good idea. The thing that was truly faith-restoring, though, was that thousands of people protested against it; there were letters, phone calls and petitions to MPs, there were marches and anti-war demonstrations, there were endless tweets that got #DontBombSyria trending in the UK. Veterans for Peace protested against the decision with the powerful symbolic gesture of discarding their medals at Downing Street. It’s heartbreaking that Parliament chose to ignore the voice of the people, but this cause united people all across the country; you just have to follow #PrayForSyria on social media to realise this.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” -Desmond Tutu
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Rubab Zaidi is a freelance writer who is currently working for a Birmingham charity and is also and active community volunteer. She loves shopping, fashion (especially the modest kind), and socialising over cups of tea. She is an eternal optimist and believes that good communication skills can make life so much easier. She is a single mum to a beautiful boy who is her biggest fan. Life has taught Rubab to prioritise her own health and well-being without paying heed to the opinions of others. She tweets at @Ruby2805