Women are, literally and figuratively, on the frontlines of the many conflicts raging in Myanmar, but are prevented from participating in the peace process in any substantial way. This year I have travelled around Myanmar meeting women from ethnic minority and majority communities to understand why they aren’t included, and what issues and insecurities they encounter. This is what they told me.
There was an old television show in the United States called Truth or Consequences in which contestants answered questions truthfully or faced the consequences. A political equivalent is now being played out in this region between a heavyweight, backed by most of ASEAN including Myanmar, and a minion, backed by the US, and the consequences will affect all of us.
Recent reports that authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have required residents in some localities throughout the province to hand in their passports for “annual review” by the Public Security Bureau is not an unpredictable development.
My trainee turns to me with a glowing smile. “They were engaged teacher; I saw it!” he half-whispers, as though exclaiming loudly would break the magic and lead our class of 20 students to lose focus.
The year 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Age of Uncertainty. Forty years is a long time, but it is worth looking back and reminding ourselves of how much Galbraith and his readers had to be uncertain about. Viewed from the perspective of 2017, however, the uncertainty of 1977 seems almost enviable.
Today, there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide. That is 21.3 million people who have been driven from their countries by fear of violence or oppression based on race, religion, nationality, politics or identity. Many live in overcrowded and unsafe camps, often lacking basic necessities, as they wait for some country to grant them asylum.
We are almost at the end of the year. For many, it’s the start of a journey, home to see the family, to be with friends. A journey that ends in reunion, togetherness, sharing. Even if we travel alone, we travel hopefully, knowing that there will be a warm welcome at the end of the tiring journey. It’s the time of the year when strangers help one another, when we smile and exchange greetings with people we don’t know.