By NEMS Daily Journal
In December 2008, the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly decided to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day. It is the date on which a brutal terrorist attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad in 2003 killed 22 people, including U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
World Humanitarian Day honors those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions. Humanitarians making the ultimate sacrifice include hundreds of U.N. workers through the decades and countless others affiliated with other agencies, religious aid missions, and independent humanitarian efforts.
The day, which has no logo and is not a holiday, seeks to draw attention to humanitarian needs worldwide and the importance of international cooperation in meeting these needs.
Every year, disasters cause immense suffering for millions of people, usually the world’s poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable individuals. In most years, forms of tyranny cause immense suffering and death.
Humanitarian aid workers from all faith streams and positions of authentic conscience strive to provide life-saving assistance and long term rehabilitation to disaster-affected communities, regardless of where they are in the world and without discrimination.
Humanitarian aid is based on a number of founding principles, including humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
Humanitarian aid workers can be international, but most come from the country in which they work.
World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. This year’s campaign “I Was Here” is about making your mark by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else.
Humanitarian efforts include finding housing for the homeless, food for the hungry, clean water where there’s none, clothing where there’s inadequacy, and medicine where sickness is untreated.
Humanitarians provide life-saving assistance to millions of people worldwide. They place their own lives at risk to help others in conflict zones and areas of natural hazards. More than 700 humanitarian workers have died or experienced the most dangerous situations.
Earlier this week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the power of individual actions to spark global changes, and praised the work of humanitarian workers who provide assistance to vulnerable people virtually everywhere.
The U.N. hopes to engage a staggering 1 billion for this year’s observance.
“Individual actions may seem small, but collectively they will reverberate around the world, generating unstoppable momentum for a better future,” Ban said.
In a 2007 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S. he said, “You are well aware that the United Nations is a secular institution, composed of 192 nations. We have six official languages but no official religion. We do not have a chapel though we do have a meditation room.
“One of my predecessors, Dag Hammarskjold, put it well. ‘The United Nations stands outside – necessarily outside – all confessions. But it is, nevertheless, an instrument of faith. It is inspired by what unites, not by what divides, the great religions of the world.’”
“Today, 4,000 nongovernmental organizations are accredited to the United Nations – 400 of them faith-based.”
“We are dedicated to helping the poor. To aiding the victims of conflict, famine, disease and disaster. To protecting human rights and promoting the rule of law.
“‘If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.’
“So reads Isaiah 58:10. You find similar passages in every sacred text.”
Humanitarian deeds aren’t the exclusive property of any single faith or spiritual stream. They are necessarily a universal human value, indispensable to the well-being of billions among us.