10 October, 2016
How does it feel to exist, but to be treated as if you are unseen—as if you are ‘”the least among us”? What is it like to speak, but not to be heard because the souls around you are either not listening or pretending not to understand your utterances? Having one’s humanity denied is a deeply hurtful and spirit-crushing experience. Who are the souls whose humanity and plaintive pleas for acknowledgment, justice, resources, and support are summarily dismissed?
Who are these broken-spirited souls that struggle to exist in a world that denies their existence?
They are the homeless, Our Elders, refugees, the poor, the incarcerated, the mentally ill, and the physically disabled.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimates that approximately 100,000,000 souls throughout our global village are homeless. On any given night in Dublin, Ireland it is estimated that at least 2,366 souls can be seen sleeping on the streets. Over 2,500 souls call the streets their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on a daily basis. Other cities in our global village with a high rate of homelessness include Rome, Italy; Athens, Greece; Lisbon, Portugal; Denver, Colorado, Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Washington, San Diego, California, Tampa, Florida; and Baltimore, Maryland in the United States; and Tokyo, Japan.
It is estimated that approximately 126.5 million souls throughout our global village are 80 years of age and older. These souls – Our Elders – are the “jewels” of our global village. Our Elders – the “jewels” in our midst -- are an untapped source of history, valuable life lessons, and wise counsel desperately needed by a world that seems to have totally engaged itself in “youth worship” and is dangerously disconnected from its past.
Approximately 3 billion souls live on less than US$2.50 each day. Out of the these 3 billion souls, at least 1.3 billion are living on less than US$1.25 each day and 1 billion of these souls who languish in poverty are children – the next Generation of Leaders, Husbands, Fathers, Wives, and Mothers.
On World Refugees Day, 20 June 2016, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) (www.unhcr.org) released a report which pointed out that approximately 65.3 million souls throughout our global village are refugees. And 51% of these souls are children. We live in a world where at least 34,000 souls every day are forcibly removed from their homes due to ethnic or religious persecution or armed conflict. Approximately 10,000,000 souls have been denied a nationality and access to health, education, employment, and freedom of movement.
According to Penal Reform International (www.penalreform.org), 10,000,000 souls are housed in correctional facilities throughout our global village which are grossly overcrowded – a condition that creates an environment that is life threatening and not conducive to rehabilitation. At least 114 nations are guilty of housing incarcerated souls in overcrowded correctional facilities. Prisons around the world have used some form of isolation on incarcerated individuals to segregate them from the general prison population as punishment for committing perceived or actual breaches of discipline. Solitary confinement as a form of punishment is being overused in prisons. In a number of correctional facilities throughout our global village, incarcerated souls must contend with poor sanitary conditions, inadequate lighting and ventilation, extreme temperatures during the summer and winter months, insect and rodent infestation, and insufficient personal hygiene supplies.
The World Health Organization recently reported that 450,000,000 souls throughout our global village are suffering from a mental disorder. Published by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, the World Development Report advises that approximately 1,000,000,000 – or about 15% of our global village’s population -- have some form of physical disability.
Why should we care about the homeless, Our Elders, refugees, the impoverished, the physically disabled, the mentally ill, and the incarcerated?
Because we are connected to each soul that is an Elder – a “jewel” of our global village.
We are connected to the refugee who is forced to flee his or her home with nothing more than the clothes on his or her back.
We are connected to the homeless man or woman who is utilizing the concrete pavement as a bed and pillow every night.
We are connected to the souls who are wallowing in poverty . . . the physically disabled . . . the mentally ill . . . and the incarcerated. Our destiny is intertwined with theirs.
The manner in which we treat these souls – whether we ignore them or whether we acknowledge their existence by providing them with the options and tools they need to transcend their particular set of circumstances – speaks volumes about our own humanity.
We must, with all deliberate speed, lift the suffocating “veil of invisibility” which shrouds these souls.
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