Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!Robert Burns, Man was made to mourn: A Dirge
“Man’s inhumanity to man,” the words from Robert Burns’ poem Man was made to mourn: A Dirge (1784) are heard often when we speak of injustices carried out by people to other people. I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt the sense of sheer inhumanity expressed by Burns in that short poem until today. Yes, I’ve seen many injustices carried out in the name of religion, security, or politics, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer sense of helplessness, hopelessness, or sadness I experienced on leaving Gaza.
Whilst waiting on a minibus to travel the short distance from Gaza to the crossing we met little Sajida and her grandmother who were travelling to hospital in Jerusalem. 9-month-old Sajida was very ill and required specialist treatment which is not available in Gaza where the already overburdened health services are limited in the treatments they are able to provide through lack of funding and medications due to the ongoing blockade. Her parents were refused permits to pass into Israel for unknown reasons and only her grandmother was allowed to accompany her.
Travelling any distance with a young child is not easy at the best of times, but travelling on a journey with a sick child, through a military crossing, with bags packed for a stay of unknown length, medications, and a pushchair, must be every parents nightmare. Add to that the fact that the journey requires 2 buses and a length of around 3 hours – all being well – then it would be a recipe for despair. However, this grandmother and child faced exactly that scenario.
Permits for Palestinians to travel from Gaza to Israel are very difficult to gain, even in medical situations. For families with sick young children, the chances of the parents being given permits to take these children for care in Israel is very low. For the vast majority it is a grandparent or older friend who gets permission to go with the child, removing them from their parents for an extended period of time. Many of these children and carers must travel by bus or expensive taxi to the hospitals, although there are some groups such as Road to Recovery who provide transport through a network of volunteers.
Sajida’s grandmother told us that until her granddaughter was born and needed treatment in Jerusalem she had not been allowed to pass into Israel for 30 years. As we drove them to hospital in Jerusalem (we had space in our car and offered to take them with us), we spoke about how the grandmother felt being out of Gaza. Her words were simple yet heartbreaking “I feel that I can breathe.”
Like most Muslim children, Sajida’s name is more than a name. It has a meaning. Sajida comes from a root in the Qur’ān meaning “a devout worshipper of God.” As we dropped them at the hospital and departed I was left wondering what more we could do. Yes, we can do as I am doing in this blog and telling their story, we can share this small illustration of inhumanity and the real people affected, in the hope that somewhere, sometime, it will make a difference. One thing we can all do is take a little piece of Sajida and pray, like her grandmother planned to do at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, that her health improves and that she has the opportunity to live a childhood of fun, happiness, love, and freedom.
Thankfully, we were able to offer transport from the crossing to the hospital in Jerusalem, saving the pair the bus journey and the challenges posed by that journey. There are many, many others who do not have that chance, who are not in a position to travel easily, or who are refused permission to leave Gaza. How can this inhumanity to other human beings be justified? For security? What risk does a seriously ill 9-month-old child and her parents pose? For religious reasons? Do the people of Gaza pose a risk to religion (whatever that means)? For political reasons? Does stopping people passing from one area to another pose a danger to political structures? How long can the international community turn a blind eye to “Man’s inhumanity to man” in this place of conflict and hardship, and in similar situations throughout the world? There has to come a time when we all realise that we must treat others as we would wish to be treated, it is how God called us to live, and the only way that we can truly say that we have lived our lives as a human existence.
IN THE HANDS OF MANHe who creates a poison, also has the cure.
He who creates a virus, also has the antidote.
He who creates chaos, also has the ability to create peace.
He who sparks hate, also has the ability to transform it to love.
He who creates misery, also has the ability to destroy it with kindness.
He who creates sadness, also has the ability to to covert it to happiness.
He who creates darkness, can also be awakened to produce illumination.
He who spreads fear, can also be shaken to spread comfort.
Any problems created by the left hand of man,
Can also be solved with the right,
For he who manifests anything,
Also has the ability to
Destroy it.Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem