Imagine a World

I was born in Eastern Nigeria. Here, we Easterners referred to as Igbos and who are majorly Christians, have always nursed an embittered past against those who inhabit the Northern (majorly Muslims) part of the country. As kids, we were often told stories about the 1967-70 Nigerian civil war— an account of our years of fight with the Northerners. In this version of war story, and perhaps in most other versions, we were the victim. For years, this story grew from becoming a part of me, to becoming me. I had no idea what I had transformed into. On several occasions, I made derogatory remarks about these my fellow countrymen. I detested them regardless of who they were or what they had to offer as humans. To me, people were not worth associating with if they came from the North and if they were Muslim. Erroneously, I saw the world through a darkness formed deep within me. However, my first attempt to question this bitterness was through the essay, “Journey of All” by young Alline Kabbatende; and my second is the prevalent coronavirus pandemic which has led to the death of over 444,000 persons worldwide, according to data published by the World Health Organization on June 18, 2020. Now, when I look around, I find it overwhelming to think that these complicated geographies that have separated us over the years could be traced into an overlap by two very distinct things: a pandemic and Alline's writing. More than ever, we have witnessed the evolution of a new bond. From Africa to South America, mankind seem to have found a way— although very much painful— back to one another. We have become more concerned about the general wellbeing. We saw the arrival of Cuban doctors in Italy to help in the fight against coronavirus. And regardless of the pandemic's impact on the economy, we saw world leaders pledge an additional $8.8 billion to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to fund the immunization of children in the world's poorest countries. All these buttress an obvious concern for one another at the moment. But one question is yet unanswered: After this, what next? There is no misgiving that before now, the communal tie that held us together was beginning to split. There were religious crises, unhealthy trade wars, inter-ethnic disharmony and talks about nuclear weapons. However, the curves seem to have flattened as we, in one collective mental awakening, have realized the essence of enjoining to fight our common enemy— coronavirus. But what then happens after this pandemic is over? Whatever is our answer, we cannot overrule the fact that over the course of our existence, we have witnessed several occurrences that tend to separate us into discrete groups. Racism, for instance, heightens our consciousness about skin colour. Inequalities classify us. Invariably, all these translate into perceptions that misguide us to believe that we differ entirely, with no justification to come together. Reading “Journey of All” made me see the world as a human family— one whose sustenance hinges on the interdependence between its members. In reality though, there are bound to be skepticisms. I wouldn't expect a Jew who has heard about the Holocaust, a victim of the 1994 Rwandan genocide or a Syrian whose life is at risk because of his faith, to hastily accept this idea. No, I understand their misgiving and it is not irrational. What I ask us, therefore, is not that we shut our eyes, but that we look beyond this darkness and see humanity for what it truly should be. And unless we look deliberately, we would never be able to see. Hence, it's a fact that this human family depends on our individual efforts for its survival. What I do, personally, is to spread this viewpoint within my own circle. I believe that an idea is akin to a seed. If well planted, it grows to influence one's perceptions and, in turn, one's responses to things and people around him. Therefore, I'm always conscious to chip in this idea of human interdependence in my conversations with others, my writings, social media posts and lifestyle. Whenever I tell people that our differences in race, nationality, gender, ethnicity and religion, exist to foster, rather than deter, our collective growth— I often hope it would open their eyes to see the world's interrelatedness. But beyond that, I hope it would open their hearts. Imagine a world where you barely care about the country next to yours and where all that matters to you is your survival? That is exactly the world we lived in prior to coronavirus outbreak, and it is inadvisable to return there when all this is finally over. Daily, I struggle with prejudice just like everyone else. But in our struggles, we must always remember that no weapon is more hazardous than a heart unwilling to accept someone else as part of the human family. Only when we understand and act towards this, can we create a sustainable world for ourselves and our children.

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Alissa Mak

Don't underestimate the power of young minds.

Hong Kong, China