Finding Hope in Humanitarian Crisis

March 2, 2020

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"Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem" by Engelbert Mveng

Millions worldwide face social, political, and ecological conditions that threaten their lives, putting at risk the stability of entire nations and future generations. Humanitarian crises mark everyday life around the globe, with the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and gang violence in Central America serving as just a few examples of ongoing conflict. While the causes of such affronts to human dignity are manifold, several factors often compound these dangers to human well-being: war, climate change, and poverty. As these global challenges show no signs of quick resolution, the very humanity of those who face widespread threat to their welfare remains on the line.

The idea of humanity itself as undergoing a crisis is the starting point of Humanity in Crisis: Ethical and Religious Response to Refugees, a new book authored by Berkley Center Senior Fellow Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J. Hollenbach charts a new ethical and religious framework aimed to inform policy on the current refugee crisis, responsible for seeing the displacement of over 70 million people worldwide. Religion, according to Hollenbach, can play important roles in how people experience and manage the global refugee crisis, as well as humanitarian emergencies more broadly. He writes:

“Religious belief can help sustain those who are suffering the effects of crisis. It energizes the work of those who seek to assist the displaced...Faith can also provide the hope needed to sustain long-term response to the deeper causes of humanitarian crisis” (53).

The significance of religious values in humanitarian work can be seen in the work of faith-based organizations—such as Catholic Relief Services, HIAS, and Islamic Relief—that provide aid to people of all faiths. In a similar vein, policymaking on refugee resettlement raises questions as to the ethical obligation to reach across international borders in order to help forced migrants. The Berkley Forum welcomes policymakers who specialize in humanitarian issues and relief workers who aid those in need to continue the conversation started in Humanity in Crisis by reflecting on what motivates their work.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: Where do policymakers and humanitarian aid workers find hope if humanity is in crisis? How does personal experience and worldview inform policymaking and relief work? How do aid workers cope with seeing human suffering on a daily basis? Where do policymakers and those serving on the front lines find hope in their action on humanitarian issues? What spurs continued work on humanitarian crises with no easy resolution in sight?

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