What are some images that come to your mind when you think of Africa?
Do you think of a desert? Do you think of an undeveloped place? Do you think of war?
Do you think of images like these…
Yes? Okay, do you know what is going on in each of these pictures? Do you know what is happening and why it is happening?
Probably not, right? Okay, so what you are experiencing is called scene-act approach to humanitarian advocacy. Fancy title, so let’s break down what it actually means and how it impacts our daily lives.
Scene-act is essentially a type of advocacy that puts more emphasis on the location rather than the individuals and humans who are suffering. So, in those pictures above, when you think of Africa, you think of war and an impoverished continent but, not of the individuals there suffering. You think of “saving Africa” or “X country” but not taking the time to first understand why those individuals in those countries are suffering. Subconsciously removing the blame from those corrupted governments and individuals who are doing the killings.
For example, when someone states that “Sudan has always been like that.” This is a prime example of one of the risks of scene-act advocacy because they are stating the country has always been like that and will continue to always be like that. Therefore, making it more difficult to separate the country from the horrible acts. It becomes apart of the country’s identity, something that defines it instead of something that should be changed.
Another result is the loss of compassion and empathy that motivates us to want to help. Rather than taking the step to put ourselves in their shoes and trying to make the issue something we can relate to, it creates a barrier that makes the issue more distant from the lives we lead.
So, what are some steps to overcome this?
The first step that we can make towards understanding is to open our eyes, hearts, and mind to the sufferings that other people experience is by being actively engaged in small acts. This is a simple concept but a very impactful one.
By engaging in these small gestures we accept the fact that we aren’t mind readers. We are not able to know what someone is feeling and what obstacles and struggles their life has consisted of but either way we still care. We care about them because they are humans like you and I. We care because we know they deserve to be shown kindness like we want to be shown.
This is why.
This is why it is so important to not only show compassion to others but to never assume you know where they come from, because you don’t. Just because they come from Jordan or Sudan, or Syria, doesn’t give us a right to judge them and their country based on the things we read in the media. Instead of assuming that their country has always and will always remain war stricken, take the time to listen to their stories and learn the real reasons as to why there is war. Just as we wouldn’t want others to assume things about our country, don’t stereotype theirs.