The need for a greater sensitivity for human life

Recent events have thrust death and human tragedy into our awareness. The death of more than 300 miners in Turkey was in the news in May.

Jun 19, 2014

By Dr Xavier V. Pereira
Recent events have thrust death and human tragedy into our awareness. The death of more than 300 miners in Turkey was in the news in May. In April many Korean children died in a ferry mishap. Closer to home the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has brought much sorrow to many. In all these events, there seemed to be a lack of sensitivity for human life by the persons who were responsible for the safety of those who died or have disappeared. In each of these countries — Turkey, South Korea and Malaysia — the leaders, especially political leaders, have been taken to task for being negligent. The prime minister of South Korea, Chung Hong-Won resigned in the wake of the ferry mishap. He apologized on behalf of the government indicating that the government took inadequate measures during the search and rescue process and had disappointed the people. In Malaysia the reverse seems to be the case. A lack of empathy, responsibility and capacity was evident.

The lack of sensitivity for human life has become a painful reality in many countries around the globe. The story of a 19 year old Syrian refugee in Malaysia demonstrated the lack of sensitivity for human life by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. He was tortured three years ago until he lost consciousness and was admitted to a Syrian hospital. He sustained multiple injuries including fractures to his skull. Now his face appears disfigured and his speech slurred. He suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. He will carry these physical and psychological wounds for the rest of his life. The humanitarian crisis in Syria has resulted in 9 million people fleeing their homes and more than 2 million of them becoming refugees. Over 100,000 civilians have lost their lives. Pope Francis, in his Easter message — Urbi et Orbi, decried the suffering in Syria. He called for urgent humanitarian aid for Syria and the end of the civil war. He also addressed the conflict in Ukraine, the violence in Iraq and South Sudan, and brutal terrorist attacks in Nigeria. His message echoed of peace and reconciliation, and a greater sensitivity for human life.

It is a disturbing fact that many people lack sensitivity for human life. One reason for this lack of sensitivity could be that some people live insulated lives. Another reason could be just plain self-absorption and selfishness. Research has also revealed that constant exposure to human suffering in the media can result in a lack of sensitivity in some, but this group of people is a minority. Thus increasing awareness to life situations and experiences including human suffering is vital in increasing sensitivity to human life.

This is the exact strategy that the protestors in soccer mad Brazil are using. The world’s focus is on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and thus the protestors are using this platform to highlight overspending, corruption and the great disparities between the rich and the poor. They have done a good job of highlighting the lack of sensitivity to the basic needs of many of the people of Brazil which should take greater importance than hosting the greatest sporting event of the year. While the names of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (the three highest paid professional footballers in the world) are on the lips of many, the people of Brazil clamour for education, health and housing. Education, health and housing are definitely more important than spending more than 15 billion dollars on a sporting event. The issue at hand is that about 90 per cent of the expenditure has been sourced from public funds. These funds should have been utilized for the betterment of the people. Many outside Brazil may not actually care because they have been infected with ‘World Cup fever’ but the option for the poor cannot be neglected in the most populous Catholic country in the world. The protesting people of Brazil also remind us that we need to make the same option for the poor. There needs to be a greater sensitivity for the poor, suffering and dying globally.

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