The Week In World News: Swedish students, Syrians and settlements

There’s a whole world out there that you might just miss if you don’t stop and read the papers. So with this in mind, let’s take a look back at some of the week’s biggest global stories.

Hope for humanity

It’s often hard to think that as an individual you can make a positive dent in an overwhelming world of humanitarian crises, political madness and environmental tragedies.

This week, Swedish student, Ellin Errson, became a symbol of hope for humanity when she single-handedly stood up on a flight to prevent it from taking off. The plane had a man on board who was being deported to Afghanistan, where at best his safety and life would be seriously jeopardised.



In this case, one individual action of peaceful protest in the face of an injustice made the difference, and the man was taken off the plane before it departed. The bravery of this girl, as a student and as an activist, was medicine for the soul.

One line that came to mind when watching the video was, “To save one life is to save all of humanity.” It’s from the Quran, it’s from the Torah, it’s Ellin Errson, it’s human.

Many people on that flight were likely to have felt a sense of injustice and sympathy for the man, and rightly so, but passive compassion wasn’t the catalyst for change here. Ellin Errson was. Would I have been so brave?

Probably not – much to my shame.

It got me thinking though. So of all my Sunday’s kneeling on unholy knees, with a throbbing hungover head and hands still stamped with evidence of the night before – one sermon at the weekly family ritual of attending mass stuck.

Perhaps it was because everything that morning sounded painfully louder – hymns, bells, sermons, babies squealing for it to all be over like myself – that I remember what the parish priest said. His words were, “to be compassionate is one thing, but to back it up with action is what makes the difference.” Compassion and action. They even sound nice together. They often don’t accompany each other though.

It’s a part of Catholicism that has aged well, with no need for the concept to evolve or transform to reflect the fluid nature of cultures and societies. It hasn’t gone stale.

The local parish priest just keeping it real, and hitting his homies up with some truth amidst all the confusion of virgins having babies and water turning into wine. Preach Father, preach.

College (and not mass) taught me all I needed to know about both. No virgins ever had babies and no amount of praying ever turned anything into wine on a Thursday when you had spent everything by Tuesday.

While we’re onto the merits of alleged miracles, Ireland has many real-life miracle activists like Ellin Errson that we should be equally proud of. One such woman is Caoimhe Butterly. Give her a google. A living, breathing, blessing to this planet.

Syria and reverse migration

This week, the Russian Ministry of Defence said more than 100,000 Syrian refugees have been returned to Syria since January and close to 1.5 million have returned in total since 2015.

A new Russian body called the “Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement” has been established through a partnership with Syria and will concern itself with all reverse migration issues. Tasks of the fledgling body will reportedly include monitoring the return of refugees, organising and transporting humanitarian assistance and assisting Syrian authorities with the reconstruction of the healthcare system.

It’s a predictable move by both countries to establish a body that will largely evade scrutiny and will position itself to do much of the work traditionally carried out by NGO’s. Syria’s track record with NGO’s has been fraught with manipulation and hostility, with some NGO’s having only been operational in opposition-controlled areas throughout the on-going conflict. Future lectures on the politics of aid are likely to have case studies on Syria for years to come.

Reverse migration might seem like a premature concept when over 200 people have been killed in the south Syrian city of Sweida this week and when Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet for the first time since 2014. It’s been happening though, and for quite some time.

It’s probably best not to take everything the new “Centre for Refugee Reception, Distribution and Settlement” does at face value. As the now lesser of two evils, it will presumably be found blowing its own trumpet for its humanitarian response to the humanitarian disaster it helped to create. However, if you’re interested in reverse migration then Sally Hayden and Ziad Ghandour have this report from December 2017.

Lakes on Mars

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I take an interest in space, mostly because it both scares me and annoys me that I’m not good enough with numbers to fully appreciate how big it is. Finding a lake on Mars, twelve miles wide, is quite a substantial find given only traces of water had been discovered up until now. The discovery means we might be that little bit closer to finding extraterrestrial life forms.

However, a simple acknowledgement is the limit of my appreciation as I hate thinking of all the money pumped into knowing more about the planets we don’t have to look after, when we can’t sort out our own.

My fellow Mayo woman and Queen of Climate, Mary Robinson, started a new podcast on climate change for everything concerning the lovely planet you actually live on. You can listen here.

Since the last time…

Eritrea: Irish journalist Fergal Keane was the first foreign journalist to enter Eritrea last week. Expect to hear more. He did a piece for RTÉ’s Drivetime. You heard it here first.

Israel: Nation State law controversy is still on-going. The UN bloc of developing countries have elected Palestine as chair of the group for 2019 as a symbolic act of support.

Trump: Just generally being Trump and potentially starting wars over Twitter with Iran. What a scandalous sentence to type.


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