The beautiful Afzaal family was laid to rest on Saturday, 12th June, 2021 in London, Ontario. The battle for little Fayez, their surviving son in hospital has just begun. One wonders about the unsurmountable challenges this little warrior will have to face once the dust settles. The biggest one being trying to make sense of the hate that took his anchors away.
A cold blooded person driven by his hate decided that the Afzaal family mustn’t live because they belonged to a certain faith.
The news cycle is always emotionless. Two days after this heart-wrenching incident, other news has already begun taking over. The issue however, is beyond momentary claims of fighting intolerance. This is a continued argument that needs addressing.
If this is the toxic environment that our children are growing up in, then our curriculum for their future must be carefully drafted. Once upon a time we did not have to contend with such open hostility in the environment. Now we are fearful of what our children might experience in the wider world as they grow. The choice is not to remain fearsome. Rather it is to successfully operate in a society that will respect and value the people we are.
How do children learn?
The home and school are environments that are responsible for a fair amount of character building. There are two ways that children learn. First is through directed guidance provided by the adult. Second is through exchanges between adults, not intended for a child’s ears, but something he absorbs from nevertheless. Overheard conversations, reflecting resentment against a community, ridiculing of a race, denigration of a person’s ethnicity, become impressions that are consumed by the child subconsiously and later could find expression in their behavior. The school is a bigger environment where this little individual might share strong views by looking down on some of his classmates. This could also play out in the form of bullying, mocking, sneering, humiliating other kids who are different. Educators at school have to be especially cognizant of this in the environment and must take immediate steps to curb it. Thus the educator, at home and at school, has a great responsibility to bear.
1. Charity begins at home. Hence, the cleaning up must begin there. Open expressions of prejudice, indiscriminate comments about anyone, negative opinions about a person’s personality, all kinds of bigotry etc. are all picked up from adults inadvertently or by design. The first step would really be to watch what we say and believe.
2. Give our children opportunities to see good in others rather than bad. Discourage idle talk about anyone.
3. Help them understand that we do not live alone in this world. We are not independent; rather we are an inter-dependent community. We must respect each other's differences. We must recognise that everyone has basic human rights which must not be transgressed.
4. Promoting compassion - empathising with anyone who is suffering, irrespective of their faith, the colour of their skin, their economic background, or their ethnicity.
5. A common phenomenon is our tendency to believe that we are being rejected by others because we belong to a particular race, religion or culture. Instead of isolating ourselves with that belief in our heads, engaging with the community, with the goodness of our characters would be a step forward. Doing so does not need to come into conflict with our identity as a person of a different culture or tradition. It is a tough mountain to scale but mindsets need to change.
“Making the world a better place” are words we hear all the time. The only way that the world can become a better place is first through the rejection of hostility, animosity, hatred, aggression, ill-will of any kind against humankind, by humankind.