Are 67 minutes enough?
A while ago a colleague and I decided we would collect food items to hand over to one of the charities that is currently involved in the Somalia crisis. We must have contacted close to 100 people that we know from work and outside with the idea being that each person brings in just one tin of food from their pantry. A donation of +/- 100 items of food would have been decent we thought. To our surprise not one person responded to the request. This really disappoints me and makes me wonder how so many people can be so disaffected by the suffering of a people. Is it because people tell themselves those people in East Africa don’t matter because they are Somalis, Kenyans, etc.? Is it because people tell themselves that those people don’t matter because they are Muslims? Sunnis? Poor? What concerns me even more so is the fact that every year we run around and want to commemorate Mandela Day and ‘give’ our 67minutes to those who have less than us as if our obligations as society can be fulfilled in 67minutes. I have long had a problem with the Mandela Day idea and apart from the fact that Allah tells us, “If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you” (Qur’an 2:271) – I sometimes wonder to what extent people are genuine even in giving those 67minutes.
Of course the current crisis in East Africa goes deeper than the starvation of millions, which itself is only a symptom of a greater problem – that needs a different kind of intervention. And of course, East Africa is not the only place where people are facing challenging conditions, indeed there are people facing challenges even closer to home, but when people have the opportunity to do one small thing and they choose to walk away, I can’t think of anything more disturbing.