Saturday, 31 January 2009

the afar peoples of africa

today i went to a meeting to establish the afar nz friendship society. needless to say, i'd never heard of the afar people until i got the invitation, hence the links to help you out if you're in the same situation. the afar people come from africa, a nomadic tribe that lives in ethiopia, djibouti & eritrea.

there are 8 afar families living in hamilton, so a pretty small community. they are all refugees. they are concerned about their families back in africa, many of whom are living on the edge of starvation due to drought. this is often an issue in refugee resettlement: that it is very hard to settle when you have family or friends living in extremely difficult conditions that you can do little to alleviate. it's very difficult to enjoy the good things in life, when you know those good things are absent for the ones you love.

the other thing that struck me was the fact that so little is known about this tribe. like the western sahara, this is a part of the world that gets little coverage. there are parts of the world that get continous coverage when a disaster happens, but in areas like this where the devastation is slow but sure, we get very little news. but even if we did get news, would we really care? as moz pointed out in his comment here, there are only so many things that the human mind can cope with, only so many tragedies we can process.

which makes me wonder, who gets to decide which crisis or which tragedy should be brought to worldwide attention? based on what criteria? and for a people like the afar, how can you get some of that attention for yourself, when your people are dying too and there seems to be little hope for improvement?

i guess a friendship society is a good way to raise awareness. at least there were a bunch of people there today who now know some things that they didn't know before. i hope the thing takes off here in hamilton, and that these people are able to do some effective fundraising (which appears to be one of their main aims) for the people back in africa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Peter Singer's latest book is actually quite good as a response to this. Basically it's a readable book-length argument that says "if you can afford to buy this book you can afford to donate to end world hunger", and gets quite specific about what you personally can do right now. One specific is to donate to groups like Oxfam.

Hmm, googling reveals that Christians tithe while Muslims pay zakat and may choose sadaqa too. I assume he's talking sadaqa rather than zakat, although I'm not sure - zakat seems to be a local thing like the jewish tzedakah rather than international, but I'm curious as to the implementation details around the world. On the face of it countries like Saudi Arabia would struggle to use 10% of their oil profits on internal charity, but I suspect they count evangelising as charity which it kind of can be in that providing schools is charitable. Anyway, let's talk about hunger instead :)

I've done variations on that over my life, for quite a while giving all of it to local green efforts but one and off half going to international poverty aid. I find that making annual bigger donations helps because it seems more real and doesn't feel as though I'm constantly thinking about it. In some ways it would be nice to have a religion so I could offload the heavy thinking onto some other sucker, because I do weasel around it sometimes, donating stuff that costs me little money but has significant value... does that count as a donation of my cost or the recipient's value?