South Africa hosted the COP17 Climate Change Conference down the road in Durban over the past fortnight.
Whether the “landmark roadmap” agreed in overtime on Sunday will be significant or not remains to be seen. Otherwise most of what happened seemed to involve a lot of blaming, name calling, and posturing. The USA and China are said to be the big bad wolves. Is it significant that, unless I missed something, not once during the two weeks was there a single mention of the talks in the headlines of The New York Times?
Two headlines did, however, grab my attention.
The first was this quotation in The New York Times on 2 December:
“My rapist has destroyed my future. No one will marry me after what he has done to me. So I must marry my rapist for my child’s sake.” This was Gulnaz, a 19-year-old Afghan woman imprisoned for adultery after being raped, who had been pardoned the previous Thursday on the condition that she marry the man who raped her.
I felt desperate for this woman, for her society, and for our world.
I also heard a radio report on 3 December of a South African journalist expelled from Qatar. He was employed by Al Jazeera. When he arrived in the country he was given a medical and was found to be HIV positive. According to the report he was bundled off to jail like a common criminal where they apparently gave him another medical in front of other prisoners. He was then expelled from the country.
I know the climate-change debate is an important one. Even if (as some suggest) we can do nothing about the changing climate we can make the world a better place in which to live for all its citizens. But these stories leave me wondering if we aren’t rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. If we cannot get the fundamentals of human kindness and dignity right and learn to treat the vulnerable as human beings, to treat one another at least as we would want to be treated, then what hope for the world anyway?