We are all Migrants, we are all Refugees
Wherever Adam and Eve were actually born and grew up, we, their descendants, have certainly done a ton of traveling. And when The First Couple were deported from the Garden of Eden it’s almost certain they didn’t find asylum in places like Hungary: other places were more receptive and civil.
Since Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel, scientists are also unsure how all we offspring were actually procreated, Cain wasn’t Abel. Whatever the answer, The First Couple now have offspring of 7/ going on 8 billion very very very great grandchildren. Indeed, we migrants now fill just about every last corner of our shrinking blue, white and green planetary home.
It’s actually been no laughing matter however, this proud, painful family expansion: almost every branch of our family has had its suffering refuges, its migrants, its “huddled masses yearning to be free”. Over a few million years pretty much all of us have been displaced at one time or another. The last few hundred years indeed, have seen an ocean of tragedy: the family history is replete with suffering.
Today, once again, we are a World on the Move. There are now more than 257 million migrants worldwide. 257/258 million! Some 22.5 million of these are registered as refuges by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. And that phenomenon, like war itself, brings out the best and the worst in people. Bad and cruel leadership today means children torn from their parents because the parents are “illegal immigrants”, the children in the hands of immigration officers who are “just following orders”. A Nazi “defence” if ever there was one.
What on earth are we at?
Some countries, humane, build bridges and shelters. Others, ignorant, fearful and tribal, erect barriers complete with barbed wire and armed vigilantes. Some national leaders sow division and hatred; others offer welcome, seek out the best in the human spirit. It’s not easy, no. But as humans we can certainly do better. We can do far better, and we must.
Essentially, what on earth are we humans doing to our home and to our species?
As our Special Guest today, Ambassador William Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) can tell us, the huge current numbers of migrants may soon be dwarfed as climate-related emergencies become bigger and more frequent, as now predicted.
The fact that environmental damage is greatly linked to human activities should be undisputed: the scientific evidence is solid. It’s also clear that hate-mongers among world leaders are damaging world peace and stability prospects in this regard. Nuclear proliferation is also, of course, a very large and real danger to humankind.
Meanwhile, with our smart phones and smart computers of all kinds, social media bring much of the world together. The last few years have also seen unprecedented and heartening progress in eliminating the worst of world poverty.
So it’s confusing – we are now a world coming together and falling apart at the same time.
Which trends will prevail?
Will the good guys or the bad guys win? Will our better angels triumph over the negative devils within us?
The answers will obviously be crucial. Will we blow ourselves off the face of the planet or will we embark on a great 21st century renaissance? This is now a particularly important moment in history, perhaps, when we should step back, again, and ask ourselves what our current concept of humanity actually is. Are we spiritual creatures or mere algorithms? Like the mature but still very young graduates we have here this morning, we need to once again ask ourselves “what sort of individual do we want to be?”
Not all is lost.
In the clash of philosophies, religions, mind-sets, there is one simple guiding light, one easy-to-follow path in front of us.
Our common enemy should be cruelty. Whatever our cultural and intellectual differences, we can, all of us, at the very least gather ‘round a common and non-divisive goal – to make of this a kinder world.
So our graduates in world affairs are today invited, with special urgency, as well as special warmth, to join the leadership ranks of those who must show all of us the future ways ahead.
To you graduates, congratulations: there are happy times ahead of you! But, as leaders, there will be challenging times too. You likely will be called from the ranks, your courage tested, your integrity and inner-compass – the one that stands for human rights and decency – will be assailed and disparaged. I have no doubt that you will hold firm; that you will hold the flame steady. That is how you have arrived here today: educated, tried and trusted.
Not only are huge, and contradictory, trends accelerating but our scholarship, our thinking must accelerate if we are to better understand where humankind is now headed. We must, more quickly, be wiser – get our human act together faster if we are to avoid global catastrophe.
We can do it! We can do it if we produce more leaders like today’s graduating class – if we seek to better understand International Relations, International Law, International Economics, International Politics. If we better understand how to attack the common enemy – which is cruelty.
The greatest challenge ahead of future leaders, indeed, may be to distinguish between consciousness and intelligence – distinguishing between mere computer generated facts, artificial intelligence, and, on the other hand, a deeper, more spiritual consciousness of who we are as humans and what is our galactical and universal mission.
Will we build more bridges or more barriers for migrant and refugees? Will we be fearful and tribal or warm and trusting? Will we build open or closed societies?
How we debate, study and answer these questions will be vital. As we sow, so also shall we reap.