By The Rev. Cheryl Green
Like many around the world, I listened intently to the news reports of the Somali pirate attacks. I prayed for the safety of the persons on board, as well as a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Yet, in my listening to and reading accounts of what was occurring, I did not hear nor fully understand the reasons, the underlying “real” reasons for the ongoing piracy.
Reports from news agencies made it sound as if a group of Somali’s woke up on the morning in question and decided for the heck of it to hijack peaceful ships steaming along in Somali waters. Somehow the Somalis in question were not people with real issues, real concerns, but rather with the un-evenhanded assistance of the media and others, they were “criminals” seemingly beyond redemption, deserving of the harshest punishment possible. However, as my mother always said, “There are always two sides to every story.”
Evidently no one in mainstream media or government (foreign and domestic) bothered to tell the world that over the last two decades foreign vessels have been competing with poor Somali fishermen, whose lives and livelihood are dependent on the days catch. Clearly no one deemed it appropriate and responsible to inform the world that foreign corporations and governments have repeatedly dumped toxic waste on the shores of Somalia, the result of which are babies born with significant physical deformities. Really did anyone ever consider asking Somalis whether here or there, exactly what is going on and why? Who are the pirates really?
Defending ones life and land takes on many forms and occurs in many ways. And while I don’t condone the actions taken by some in Somalia, it’s not so hard to understand either if one has the whole story. But that’s just the point. The whole story is not being told in a way that allows us to make informed decisions. As a result, what has been reported only adds fuel to the anti-immigrant, racist, xenophobic bonfires around the world. Made to look and sound like bandits, Somalis now become targets of small-minded, ignorant and bigoted persons who gladly look for any opportunity to espouse hate and engage in acts of violence.
Yet who are the pirates really? Is it possible that maybe the real pirates are the foreign corporations and governments whose foul practices have only added to the tumultuous conditions in Somalia? People cannot eat if the water is poisoned; fish die and unfair competition over natural resources exist. Babies cannot and do not grow into healthy productive, law abiding, working adults if they are born with physical deformities and disabilities which make it impossible for them to obtain employment. Food cannot grow on land that has been damaged through natural and unnatural events. People cannot live in freedom and peace if unresolved conflicts continue and those governments which can provide meaningful and lasting help fail to do so.
Seems to me the pirates are closer to home than we’ve been led to believe.