Hope for Humanity in the Depths of Despair

(Ng Han Guan /Associated Press)

It is ironic that in natural disasters amidst tremendous human suffering that we sometimes see the best in humanity. And while we (or at least try to) ignore the suffering of opponents during times of conflict or war, during times of natural disasters we are reminded somehow of our common humanity - our shared fragility. I suppose, it reminds us of the forces that are so much greater than our individual lives and that without shared responsibility, care and concern, we might just not survive.

Just this past week, I was reading in the newspaper about the cyclones in Myanmar and how the global community sits frustrated at the doorstep of the junta awaiting permission to enter to help save lives and deliver supplies. Yesterday, I read an article about the Wenchuan earthquake in the Sichuan province of China. The earthquake had measured 7.9 in magnitude and was felt as far as Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan. For the first time ever, China opened its doors to foreign assistance.

And the first teams to respond?

Japan and Taiwan. Immediately after the earthquake happened, the Japanese government officially offered assistance, promptly sending a planeload of supplies. The Japanese rescue team made up of firefighters, police, coast guards and aid officials arrived on the scene today. The Taiwanese team arrived shortly after.

Given their geographical proximity, the immediate response of these teams may not be of note. What is however, is that both Japan and Taiwan have had and continue to have hostile and volatile relationships with China. Many Chinese have never forgotten or forgiven the violence unleashed by the Japanese armies in WWII. And China has never accepted Taiwan's stand as a sovereign nation.

But now is not the time for such bitterness. It is time for hope. The hope for survivors, abundant supplies and effective global collaboration and rescue. Although, I can't help but wonder whether these efforts will somehow alter a little bit for the better, how these countries and their people view each other in the future.

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