A Global Farce

The world looks on in shock at the recent absence to the Paris skyline. Notre Dame cathedral burned, now a smouldering ruin.

Like a phoenix from the ashes though, a truly inspiring community response has emerged. Within Hours over £600 million has been raised to restore this beacon of human, cultural significance.

Parisians, French, Europeans, Global Citizens can celebrate a true triumph of human compassion for bricks and mortar and stained-glass windows. What Notre Dame has re-asserted is the great significance, value and importance of our shared human history.

Buildings are symbols of our shared past, icons of local, national and global heritage. They’re representative of our humanity. Church Bells across England rang in solidarity with France's loss.

And yet it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to be upset that a culturally significant building has been damaged, but contrast the response to, say, Grenfell Tower. Both received blanket coverage in the British press. Financial support was forthcoming but boy is there still a world of difference.

Grenfell Tower revealed an insidious pathology in our society; a correlation between social status, economic power, class, race and religion. It laid bare a truth about how we see each other. If the response to Grenfell was disproportionate – what about the lack of response to the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen?

*Light Bulb Moment*

Maybe Christian Aid has been approaching the ongoing atrocity in Yemen in completely the wrong way? We’ve been WAAAAAAY too focused on the loss of life, the human rights violations, the 85,000 children believed to have died of hunger, the airstrikes, the arms sales, the loss of hope, homes and displaced communities.

Maybe, what we need to do is lament the loss of buildings, places of cultural, religious and historical significance. Yemen is full of them. At least it used to be...

One candidate could be the Minoan Temple of Nakrah. The Conflict in Yemen has seen the temple suffer ‘extensive damage’ according to a UNESCO report asking for all parties in the conflict to ‘take more care of the sites of historical significance’.

It ticks the boxes.

  • Historical? Check.
  • Of cultural significance? Check.
  • Significant damage? Check.

 

Nope? Ok, how about: The Old City of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen?

Inhabited for more than 2,500 years and a site of significant Islamic importance. It’s a site of religious and political heritage with ‘outstanding universal value'.

This too ticks the boxes.

  • Historical? Check.
  • Of cultural significance? Check.
  • Significant religious significance? Check.
  • Significant damage? Check.

 

Sorted. We’ll just focus on that.

Can we expect a global public lament now? £600 million raised in the next 24 hours? Probably not. That’s not to say money isn’t being raised though. The conflict in Yemen is filling the UK’s coffers quite considerably.

The UK sells arms to Saudi Arabia, who are using those weapons to continue to perpetrate one of the worst humanitarian crisis’ of human history. The UK invests at least 50% of the international aid budget into conflict affected regions – whilst simultaneously selling 50% of the UK's arms within those very same regions!

If Notre Dame burning down is a European tragedy then the ongoing conflict in Yemen reveals a global farce.