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By George Davis in All Sorts

reflections on how international discontent and terror also personally affects us

This world is in a sorry state. Around the world at the moment acts of state terror and bullying are happening on a scale perhaps not exceeded since World War II. Every news item from all the world outlets demonstrates that acts of bullying and terror are rife. Can we sit still and silent during all of this? Is it not making us uncomfortable? Does it make us more than that – pushed to a point where we feel it is not right to just sit, and listen.
At the moment, as in the worst of times, Syria’s Idlib province is undergoing a tremendous and indiscriminate bombing campaign from a combination of forces from the Assad family regime and their allies the Russian air forces stationed nearby. Hospitals have been bombed in the last few days, in direct contravention of United Nations sanctions (signed by Russia) that hospitals were to be left free from bombing, or any artillery exchanges. The UN Security Council has met six times previously to address the number of casualties killed in Idlib. The Security Council has stopped short of condemning the Bashar-al –Assad regime and the Russians for the outrages and called for “an inquiry.” No wonder the UN are seen as toothless in its responses.
On Thursday morning we heard the news that the Iranian Foreign minister Mohammed Javid Zarif has been sanctioned by the United States’ Treasury Department Office acting on behalf of President Donald Trump. Their claim is based on the fact that foreign minister Zarif acts on behalf of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni and that the US wants direct communication with the Supreme Leader. Or is it that they are more than a little concerned that Zarif is respected as a successful negotiator in the European region where the European Community have a softer approach to sanctions against Iran?
President Trump goes on his unpredictable way – which reflects his belief that the US is the major player on the world stage and that every other people in the world are just “bit players”. He plays dangerous international roulette with Kim Jong-un in a strategy to contain him, when the North Korean regime demonstrates the same willfulness driven by the impulse to be the leading family in the Pacific North West. With Iran, Trump must be conscious that his restrictions on trade with Iran hurt the working and poorer classes most, and that the people he intends to unseat from power – the Ayatollah Ali Khomeni and his party can probably outlast the attack on the regime. The most dangerous USA move would be to tip the Middle East into a war in which much of the world would soon be engaged just in order to show Iran that it must behave or kow-tow to the White House.
There are numerous other examples of outright bullying happening in the world right now. For example, Italy’s cruel and nationalist driven recent policy of closing its ports to African refugees escaping across the Mediterranean; Hungary’s fences preventing most migrants entering Europe from the South-East; Australia’s hard-line attitude to refugees, by imprisoning them in “detention centers”; Indonesia’s attitude to West Papua; the situation in Hong Kong which could easily and suddenly precipitate an intervention from the Beijing and so on.
All of these tragedies impact on us, one way or another. John Donne’s 1620s poem No Man is an Island is still true. We are part of mankind and as Christians we need an individual and appropriate response:
Meditation XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
No man is and island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if the promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
It is as true now as it was when it was written, centuries ago.
George Davis, Dunedin 1 August 2019.