A Dream Beyond Borders

The Eid of Unity and Peace: A Dream Beyond Borders

This poem was written by a LGBT+ refugee in Africa, who self identifies as Christian, and who wants to commemorate the end of Ramadan among his Muslim neighbours; his poem is published here in the spirit of acknowledging our common humanity and hoping for human peace regardless of background or belief.

ai-generated image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Beneath the crescent moon’s gentle gleam,
Eid al-Fitr whispers a collective dream.
A dream where faith and hope intertwine,
Uniting Muslims in a bond divine.

From Mecca’s sands to Jakarta’s shores,
The call of peace our heart implores.
With prayers and smiles, we break our fast,
In gratitude for Ramadan now past.

Yet, in our joy, we cannot forget,
Those under shadows of sorrow’s silhouette.
In Palestine, where olive trees weep,
For innocent lives, the cost is steep.

Children, mothers, and LGBTQ souls,
Caught in conflict, a heavy toll.
Their dreams of Eid, tinged with despair,
Yearning for peace in the air.

To our siblings in humanity’s embrace,
We send our love to that troubled place.
Wishing for the day when freedom rings,
And from every minaret, peace sings.

We call upon Israel, with hope in our voice,
To choose compassion, to make the choice.
To halt the persecution, the pain, the fears,
To dry the tears, to end the years.

Let this Eid be more than a feast,
Let it be the day when love increased.
Where every heart, near and far,
Joins in the prayer for an end to war.

So, as we celebrate, let’s not forget,
The power of love, to conquer yet.
Eid Mubarak, let this be the start,
Of a world where peace doesn’t depart.

Composed by Joseph. K

This blog ©2024 Geoff Allshorn. All rights for this poem returned to the poet Joseph K.

O little town of Bethlehem

Image by Brigitte make custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay

O little town of Bethlehem
Engulfed in war and death!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The world draws bated breath.
For in your dark streets brimmeth
The ghosts of all those lost,
Our hopes and fears meet deafened ears
Your children are the cost.

The Christ story of ancient times
Is told anew today
While women search for birthing place
“No room” – they are turned away.
No mourning for the children
The lost of Gaza’s birth.
A massacre of innocents
No peace across the Earth.

The women of Afghanistan
Their hopes are a lost refrain.
The children dying in Yemen
or Sudan or the Ukraine.
No ear may hear their suffering
But in this world of choice,
Let humble folk rise up and fight,
And give others a Voice.

Our world is full of ancient yore
Of nobility and memes
And yet we see mass death and war
That seem to negate our dreams.
May we all find renewed hope
Real action, not blank stares.
Becoming our own answer to
Those yearned-for thoughts and prayers.

O hollow town of Bethlehem
Why do we ignore your plight,
While affluent folk everywhere
Share gifts only for one night?
They smile and bleat platitudes,
Proclaiming peace on Earth,
While others wail their silent cries
And die in shameful dearth.

Oh ancient tale of Bethlehem
You seem very far away,
Especially from Ugandan queers
Or trans folk in USA.
As we hear Christmas carols
May we please learn anew
The moral strengths attributed
One Palestinian Jew!*

*With thanks to Leunig (“Away in A Manger”, The Age, 15 December 2023) for the inspiration.

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

Human Rights Are Bigger Than We Think

For Human Rights Day 2023 and the values it portrays.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one.” – Spock.

Today, on Human Rights Day, the newspapers here are full of news that the Australian government announces cuts in migration, in apparent response to polls that suggest Australians think we are importing too many foreigners. This is the same population that recently told our indigenous people that they did NOT deserve the human right to have a voice in the democratic process; the same population that wants the government to shackle and detain black people who have arrived by boat, even after the High Court declares that indefinite detention is illegal.

Meanwhile, wars in the Ukraine and Gaza and Sudan and Yemen continue unabated. The USA votes against ceasefire in Gaza, and the UK abstains. Sorry, there will be no peace on Earth for millions of human beings this Christmas.

It is now 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, and we seem to be much further away from achieving its goals than at any time since it was written. Affluent, entitled white folk bewail the “woke” lefties who promote social justice; conspiracy theorists demand their “rights” not to wear a mask or have innoculations, spreading a potentially fatal virus to the most vulnerable.

Therein lies a basic problem: many people think of human rights as an individual, ie. “my rights”. They need to think of humanity as a collective, a family, a genus.

Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

Human rights do not begin and end with us, or with our immediate biological family, nor with our extended friendship grouping. Nor do they end within the limitations of our personal philosophies. I like to remind some people of a good comparison between being “pro-life” and being “pro human rights”:

Someone who says they are pro-life needs to understand that being “pro-life” does not begin and end with the question surrounding abortion. Being pro-life also means supporting women’s autonomy, and the right to make choices both at the start and the end of life. Being pro-life means opposing unrestricted gun ownership, the death penalty, and religious rights to discriminate against minorities. Pro-life means supporting universal health care and a universal basic income, endorsing school lunch programs and women’s shelters and social housing. It means demanding welfare programs, increased spending on science and medicine, and less spending on war. Being genuinely pro-life means upping our refugee intake, it means free public education, and employment programs to increase self-reliance and self-esteem, and to reduce crime and poverty. It means encouraging trans folk and gender variant people and everyone who encompasses diversity and difference to live freely and happily and joyfully. Pro-life means improving the quality of life for everyone around us – and around the whole world – especially for those with disadvantage, disempowerment or disability. It means higher taxes and adopting “trickle up” economics instead of “trickle down”. It means abolishing the developing world by engaging in a cultural war for true human equality. It means encouraging people to think critically and become educated and empowered and autonomous, resisting the religious or political or cultural systems that oppress them. Pro-life means working for social evolution and cultural revolution.

And so it is with human rights: anyone who claims to respect and uphold human rights must see the bigger picture. Until they are enjoyed by the person deemed to be least worthy or least likely or most overlooked and forgotten, then human rights mean nothing.

Today, on Human Rights Day, over one hundred million people are refugees or displaced due to wars, starvation, despots, genocide and injustice. Do we care?

Along with human rights come human responsibilities: and we have a duty to care – and to act. We need to extend the concept of human rights to our human family, and beyond that, to other sentient species, and to the environment, and to the biosphere – because these are all married to our rights and our survival. As creatures formed from stardust, we are all intimately connected. Human rights are life rights. Perhaps a quote from Carl Sagan would help us to gain some perspective:

“Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers.” – Sagan, The Demon Haunted World.

In the modern world, we see democratic nations electing fools and unqualified charlatans. We see populist movements of people who are ignorant of science trying to drag us backwards to the era of flat earth and oppression of minorities. It’s easy to dismiss the problem as being too big: we cannot save the world, so it’s too hard to try doing anything. But I think that we must recognise our human duty to spread hope: our world, for all its ugliness, is still a place where war and famine and injustice and cruelty are slowly being eliminated. Beauty and idealism and youthful enthusiasm must be nurtured.

Our ultimate human right is to spread hope and life; everything else is incidental and will come as a consequence. So the next time you think of giving life-saving food to a starving refugee, or another act of selfless human humanity, remember that not only are you right to do so, but it is your human right to do so – saving the world, saving the ethical core of your own humanity.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

The Flame of Hope

THE FLAME OF HOPE: UNITING AGAINST AIDS ON WORLD AIDS DAY

In the quiet echoes of a December morning,
A tale unfolds, of lives deeply torn.
On this World AIDS Day, we stand in reflection,
A reflective reminder, a global connection.

Through the years, AIDS has claimed its toll,
Silent whispers of stories, the anguish it stole.
Countless souls, aching in the night,
Lost to the shadows, out of sight.

Yet in the shadow’s grip, a flame remains,
A call to action, where hope sustains.
For in our hearts, a duty we bear,
To raise awareness, to show we care.

Youth, vibrant and full of dreams,
On this battleground, the fight it seems.
A plea to be vigilant, to be aware,
To guard against a silent, lurking snare.

Let education be the shield we wield,
Knowledge a weapon, a formidable field.
Empower the youth with facts so clear,
To conquer ignorance, dispel the fear.

On this World AIDS Day, let’s unite,
Illuminate the darkness, be the light.
To those who suffer, we extend our hand,
Together we stand, a united band.

No room for stigma, no place for shame,
For every victim, we know their name.
Let empathy guide, compassion inspire,
In every heart, let love transpire.

Support the fighters, those who’ve known pain,
In their resilience, a strength to regain.
Break the chains of judgment, let them fall,
For love and understanding conquer all.

So on this December day, let us decree,
A world free from judgment, hate, and plea.
To those who’ve faced AIDS, our hearts entwine,
In unity, let love forever shine.

Composed by: Joseph K (He/Him)

[This poem was written by a Ugandan LGBT refugee now living elsewhere, and he graciously allowed me to print it here. His sentiment reminds me of another activist, Michael Callen, who once wrote (inscribed in a book) that we can HEAL AIDS WITH LOVE.

I have published this poem because it supplements well my talk on community empowerment and gives me hope for the future of Uganda – Geoff]

This blog ©2023 Geoff Allshorn. All rights returned to the author.