THE BLOG

Easter Eggs, Humanitarian Catastrophies and Hard Choices

06/04/2015 01:01 BST | Updated 03/06/2015 10:59 BST

This week Kuwait hosted the third Syria conflict donor conference aimed at raising resources to tackle the ever escalating humanitarian needs that have affected the region for more than four years now.

Donors at the UN conference pledged $3.8bn (£2.6bn; €3.5bn) for victims of Syria's civil war as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned that the Syrian people were "victims of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time".

Under the new commitments, the UK has now devoted a total of £800m in aid meaning the country is now one of the few donors in the world to successfully meet its share of funding towards a crisis that has displaced close to 10 million people and seen more 200 000 others killed.

Overall, the global humanitarian needs for this crisis today stands at a staggering £12.3bn and has only been funded to 9%.

With this awakening thought, we approach the Easter weekend in the UK with news that commercial spending over the holiday will top £787m on Easter eggs and other related shopping and holiday activities.

As one of the largest Christian holidays of the year, Easter time carries profound meaning which do not only resonates with people of the faith, but concern the state of the world and our society presently.

Easter's foremost message is one of joy. But it is joy at a high cost. You can't get to Easter Sunday without first going through Good Friday. We celebrate life because there is the contrast of death. Distant as it may seem for many of us, this tension is very real around the world today.

For starters, there are some 51m people displaced in the world today, the highest number since WWII. We should enjoy our Easter eggs, but we should not forget those for whom Easter looks very different this year.

Finding joy in unexpected places

Yet some of the most joyful people I have met have been in some of the most horrendous places. They have been families living in improvised refugee settlements in Lebanon. They have been overjoyed because they have been reunited with family members they thought were lost in the fighting in Syria. And parents able to feed their children after days wondering if food would arrive. On a smaller scale, aid workers only get to experience the joy of being part of that if we first leave home to go to some of the world's hardest places.

Our culture today values comfort. Our society today doesn't like Good Friday. It is uncomfortable even to think about it. We want the celebration of Easter Sunday without the cross three days before.

Likewise it is uncomfortable to think about that the £787m we are about to spend on Easter eggs is the same amount as the total humanitarian needs for the Central African Republic and Afghanistan combined for a whole year (funded at 11% and 21% respectively). Or about 6% of global humanitarian needs. The £800m given by the UK government to the Syria crisis is commendable, but in the bigger picture the failure of the international community to solve the conflict is still dreadful.

Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic all show that aid is essential to keeping people alive. Providing it is hard. But as countless people around the world will attest, when faced with a disaster aid does and will save lives.

Going beyond our comfort zones

Yet aid is not enough.

There are places aid cannot get to, and aid is not a long-term solution. We need a renewed effort to address the many conflicts around the world. This requires courage and the willingness to risk repeated failure in order to get closer to success. Otherwise may find ourselves with another Kuwait conference next year. The post-2015 process, the World Humanitarian Summit and the many ongoing conflicts all provide opportunities for new efforts.

The Christian Easter message will say that the celebration of Easter Sunday came not despite the despair of Good Friday but because of it, that without going to the worst of places we cannot find that sometimes elusive joy.

In the world today we need to make a choice to go beyond the Easter eggs. We need to ensure we provide more to those with too little, and that we help make this world a more peaceful place to live. Practically speaking, we should ensure our rich societies keep providing to the less fortunate ones, and that we support our leaders to work towards peace in the hardest places on our planet.