As a young child at school back in the early 70’s, many playground arguments ended with ‘I can say what I want, it’s a free country’. I’m pretty sure that at that time and at that age the true meaning of those words were not really understood, but what was understood even back then is that in our country (UK), we felt relatively safe and free to do what we wanted, after all, the TV and news showed us places where people weren’t so free and didn’t have everything that we had, so we had to be free, right?
At school we raised money to send to Ethiopia as the people there were starving, images of children with bloated stomachs, starved dead men and women laying on the floor, posted everywhere leaving lasting memories. Christian Aid envelopes sent home with schoolchildren to ask parents to donate to the cause. Media continued to tell us of severe famines in Pakistan, Sudan and Ethiopia, and that public support for aid was required.
Christian Aid history speaks about how they discovered in the 1970’s that emergency relief wasn’t enough and that the starving people needed genuine solutions, not hand-outs. They recognised that the poverty and famine was not just an act of nature, but political and economic decisions. So alongside traditional relief and development, they started to consider how to work for people’s rights. They go on to talk about how they worked in the world’s hotspots: in Vietnam and Laos, destroyed by war; in Uganda after the overthrow of Idi Amin; in Nicaragua after the toppling of the dictator Somoza; and in Kampuchea (present-day Cambodia) after the fall of Pol Pot.
Funny but I don’t remember any of that being really big in the news at the time?
In 1988 The New York Times reported on the worlds up rooted millions .
- AFRICA ALGERIA (167,000) from W. Sahara 165,000; others 2,000
- ANGOLA (92,000) from Namibia 70,000; Zaire 13,000; S. Africa 9,000
- BURUNDI (76,000) from Rwanda 65,800; Zaire 9,600; Uganda 400; others 200
- ETHIOPIA (625,000) from Sudan 350,000; Somalia 225,000
- MALAWI (600,000) from Mozambique
- SOMALIA (430,000)from Ethiopia
- SOUTH AFRICA (250,000) from Mozambique
- SUDAN (817,000) from Ethiopia 677,000; Uganda 90,000; Chad 45,000; Zaire 5,000
- SWAZILAND (67,000) from Mozambique 60,000; S. Africa 7,000
- TANZANIA (266,000) from Burundi 160,000; Mozambique 72,000; Zaire 16,000; S. Africa 6,000; others 12,000
- UGANDA (120,400) Rwanda 118,000; Zaire 1,400; Sudan 1,000
- ZAIRE (338,000) from Angola 310,000; Rwanda 11,000; Burundi 10,000; Uganda 2,000; others 5,000
- ZAMBIA (151,000) from Angola 94,000; Mozambique 35,000; Zaire 9,500; Namibia 7,500; S. Africa 3,000; others 2,500
- ZIMBABWE (166,750) from Mozambique 166,250; S. Africa 500
- MIDDLE EAST AND SOUTH ASIA INDIA (281,000) from Sri Lanka 125,000; China (Tibet) 100,000; Bangladesh 50,000; Afghanistan 5,600; Iran 1,100
- IRAN (2,600,000) from Afghanistan 2,200,000; Iraq 400,000
- IRAQ (75,000) Iran 75,000
- JORDAN (852,750) from Palestine
- LEBANON (287,420) from Palestine 281,520; others 5,900
- PAKISTAN (3,545,400) from Afghanistan 3,541,400; Iran 4,000
- SYRIA (259,850) from Palestine
- WEST BANK (375,830) from Palestine
- GAZA STRIP(447,850) from Palestine
- EAST ASIA HONG KONG (20,000) from Vietnam
- MALAYSIA (105,220) from Philippines 15,000; Vietnam 90,000
- PHILIPPINES (11,950) from Vietnam 8,800; Laos 2,920; Cambodia 230
- THAILAND (404,500) from Cambodia 293,210; Laos 75,580; Burma 20,000; Vietnam 15,710
- CENTRAL AMERICA COSTA RICA (32,000) from Nicaragua 23,000; El Salvador 6,200; Cuba 2,500; others 300
- HONDURAS (52,500) from Nicaragua 32,000; El Salvador 20,000; Guatemala 500
- MEXICO (165,000) from El Salvador 120,000; Guatemala 45,000
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Does all of this make us free? No, just because our cage is bigger, doesn’t mean that we’re free – hence “Freedom is not a measure of another persons servitude”.