In a sermon on the situation in Haiti, Dr. Michael Van Heerden, president of St. Augustine college, made a distinction between a 'tragic event' and a 'tragedy.' A tragic event being the earthquake and a tragedy being the response to a tragic event. A response that is a tragedy is one of indifference.
Fortunately the global community has risen to the challenge with humanitarian aid and pledges for reconstruction. The event has been well covered by our media, eliciting a compassionate response from all sectors of society. I use public transport and have witnessed how for many there is a feeling of solidarity and compassion for the people of Haiti. The earthquake brought to the fore issues of poverty in Haiti and around the globe.
When I watch international relief efforts on television and witness the generosity of the human spirit, I also see in my imagination possibilities of complimentary or a different type of humanitarian aid from the poor of the world who have non-material resources such as solidarity, shared experiences, and community-building resources. For example, landmines in countries that had war have resulted in large numbers of amputees. Watching many in Haiti having to have their limbs amputated makes one realize that they need to hear stories from those who share these experiences and can inspire them to embrace the changes in their lives. I know it sounds impractical and is logistically impossible, but the point I am making is that rebuilding communities and lives requires a wide range of resources -- material and non-material -- the resources of both the rich and the poor.
Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.