Sunday, 22 November 2015

Inspiration to us all

Erich Maria Remarque is famous for writing All Quiet on the Western Front, in that book as well as others he documents the horrors of war and the plights of the refugee, thus living a kafkaesque nightmare which plague their lives, and when we read him, ours too.  There are many other authors who bring these beleaguered lives to the forefront of our attention.
 The refugee has been getting a lot of attention of late, and stories surrounding them are often quite awful and depressing, but it need not be that way.  It certainly need not be that way at all. There are remarkable people and there are remarkable people. We hear stories of how Jews were helped to safety during world war two, Aharon Appelfeld, the great Romanian-born writer, escaped a Nazi camp when he was a child, and tells his story in his novels as well as the stories of others.

 Juha Petri Sipilä is the current Finnish Prime minister.  He leads the Centre Party and has done since June 2012.  On 19th April, of 2015 , Finish general elections were held and Alexander Stubb, who, at the time was the Prime minister of the country with a population of five million people, admitted defeat at the ballot box and that made way for Sipilä.  "It seems as though the Centre has won. Congratulations," so said Stubb of the Coalition Party. As Monday morning approached the Finns were celebrating a new progressive, liberal government and this was despite the tide of racist political parties’ sweeping the country. 
            On the fifth of September the Prime minister declared something which is unusual in politics; it was a gesture of goodwill, humanity, humility and benevolence.  He offered his private home in northern Finland to asylum seekers.  People, of course, were left open-mouthed at this.

 He said the following: "We should all look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we can help… My house is not being used much at the moment. My family lives in Sipoo [east of Helsinki] and the prime minister's residence is located in Kesaranta’. 

 In response to this wonderful gesture people offered all sorts of plaudits and the hope was that others would follow his gracious act.  Well, there are other similar stories of goodwill.  In Iceland because the government take so few refugees, people around the country have decided they will offer their homes to them.   This is happening elsewhere to.  The President of Uruguay for example.

 José "Pepe" Mujica, President of Uruguay has offered his summer house retreat to one-hundred orphaned Syrian children.  This same President, incredulously, to quote the BBC:

‘It's a common grumble that politicians' lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president - who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.

This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders.

‘I have lived like this most of my life’, he humbly said.  He spent fourteen-years in prison and has been shot six times, in 2009 he was elected President, and like Evo Morales of Bolivia, is known as ‘the poor President’.  One of the neighbouring countries, Venezuela, had Hugo Chavez who used to read to the poor and to the illiterate.  There are similar stories around the region.  These are touching stories and ought to inspire us all.

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