It’s the time of the year where you look back – another year has almost passed and for me, just as for many other people, 2015 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not for personal reasons, but for the way things have developed globally. We have been facing violence and hate all over the world, the year began with terrorism on January 7th in Denmark and Nigeria and the pattern continued until the end of the year when after the attacks in Paris and Beirut on November 13th, more and more countries decided to join the military ally against ISIS – war, again.
The accumulation of sad events, including the shooting down of a Russian air craft and the Greek debt crisis, left people scared and some even hopeless. Whenever I feel bitter about the happenings in the world, I watch a short video of civil rights activist Maya Angelou. In 2011 she stated: “Pick up the battle and make it a better world, just where you are. And it can be better and it must better, but it’s up to us.”
Bearing these words in mind, I prepared a positive recap of 2015 (and believe me, it wasn’t easy) – but this is to humanity and to hope:
- Abdul Halim al-Attar and his family have a future – thanks to the internet.
This picture went viral – a Syrian refugee holding his sleeping daughter in Lebanon and attempting to sell pens in order to make a living.
The story touched many people leading to the crowdfunding campaign “Buy Pens”, which raised more than 165.000€ and allowed the man to open a kebap shop and two bakeries in Beirut, now employing 16 other refugees. A win-win-situation: These people make their own living, they aren’t a financial burden and can integrate easier to the local community in Lebanon.
- John Oliver pays tribute to Noujain Moustaffa – the girl who fled from Syria in her wheelchair
What can you say? John Oliver not only explained the difference between migrants and refugees, the necessity to support people, but he actually reached the girl and made her happy at least for a moment by staging an alternative ending of her favourite series. Noujain – who safely arrived in Germany – later replied via Twitter modestly that there are many similar cases to hers and people are happy for every helping hand.
- Alex Assali – cooking for the homeless in Berlin
Refugee Alex Assali receives only a little more than 300€ per month for his own needs, but the Syrian who arrived in Germany in 2014, decided to give something back. As a former social worker, he is standing every Saturday in the centre of Berlin, offering stews he prepared to the homeless. He says he understands the circumstances of the homeless and feels sympathy for them.
- More education and better healthcare in developing countries
The rates of people who are living in developing countries are dropping in the last decades, just as the mortality rate of children. Moreover, a higher number of children have access to education around the globe and a growing number of girls attend schools. In spite of the common misconception, developing countries are progressing.
- Nobel Peace Prize – a fight for a stable democracy in Tunisia
While the common idea of the Arab countries is dominated by the image of war and crises, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartett won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for their effort to avoid exactly this.
Founded after the Arab Spring, the laureates try to maintain a democratic dialogue in their country and to strengthen the political sphere, avoiding the effect of the revolution’s aftermath – a power vacuum triggering corruption and instability.
6. COP21 – United Nations Conference on Climate Change
Much hope rose when in December 196 states agreed to sign a contract in order to fight together against climate change. Although many critics claim that the goal of keeping global warming below 2° Celsius is unrealistic, look on the flipside: even if there is a lot of cheap talk, this agreement might provide the necessary global publicity for people to rethink their own consumption choices regarding meat, electricity and mobility – small steps which in the sum can make a difference.
7. A good year for gender issues
No matter what you think about Caitlyn Jenner, her publicly highly debated transformation and coming-out supported the transgender community at least in terms of acceptance. Additionally, the Federal Court of the United States decided that same-sex marriage shall be legal, since everyone is supposed to be treated equally by the law. People are becoming more comfortable with the idea that there are more shades of gender and love than black and white.
8. Ebola – the worst case scenario didn’t occur
Remember? One year ago, everyone was speaking about Ebola and the chances of a pandemic disaster. The World Health Organization (WHO) expected more than 10.000 weekly infections, spreading from Western Africa to other regions of the World. In Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea more than 11.000 people lost their lives to the virus, but at least the deadly disease didn’t spread as expected. Volunteers and doctors, especially from Doctors Without Borders risked their lives in order to end the suffering. The world should be grateful that these people exist.
9. Water on Mars
To some it might seem irrelevant, but the scientific discovery is actually mind-blowing: there is water on Mars! Imagine the technological development which enhanced this finding. Mankind, strangely, is capable of sending robots into space and detect the source of life on Mars, but cannot establish peace on the planet we are living on. However, imagine the future of technology and discoveries – one of the greatest childhood dreams might come true and we might witness travellers to Mars, as it is planned to happen by 2020.
I don’t believe that people are either good or evil. Everyone is made of the same components so you can trigger both extremes. However, I believe that many of my readers are smart and kind enough to show sympathy, affection, respect and support in their environment in their very own way. Therefore I am coming back to my initial thought – „the world can be better and it must be better, but it’s up to us“.
So what have your greatest stories been in 2015?