One Life Matters: the plight of aid workers reflects a darkness over us

Vincent today.
Vincent today.

Vincent Cochetel warns us about a problem that is reflecting a deeper, more insidious plight of the human condition—the killing of humanitarian aid workers. This rarely happened, but in the past decade or so, it has become an all too frequent occurrence.

The sanctity of life is fading. Since the new millennium, the number of attacks on humanitarian aid workers has tripled. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed; 171 seriously wounded; 134 abducted.

Despite the risks, humanitarian aid workers continue to help people who’ve been subject to natural disasters because of this—every life should matter—and this is what motivates aid workers to continue in what now can be called ‘perilous work’.

“I think helping people in danger is being a responsible human being,” Cochetel said. “We have a responsibility to protect. We may fail, but even worse than failing, is not even trying when we can.” 

He said if you sign up for these kinds of jobs your life will be full of a lot of joy mixed with sadness because there are so many people that can’t be helped. “Having witnessed suffering up close, you take on part of that suffering yourself.”

Hostage Vincent upon his initial release.
Hostage Vincent upon his initial release.

Cochetel experienced some of this himself. He was held hostage for the better part of one year back in the ‘90s, much of the time in solitary confinement in darkness. He had two buckets: one for water, one for waste. One candle was given daily with the meal. The candle only burned for 15-minutes, enough time for him to eat the daily meal of bread and slop. Then darkness again. He was finally released and has been on a mission since to raise awareness of what is happening to humanitarian aid workers worldwide.

Prior to the 1980s, humanitarian aid workers were not the targets of these attacks. This has changed. Gone are the days when the humanitarian blue flag or red cross flag would protect workers. Worse yet, there seems to be no consequences for attacks on these workers. “Where is the justice? This is unacceptable! Attacks on humanitarian aid workers is a war crime,” Cochetel said. “Attacks against humanitarian aid workers are attacks on humanity itself.”

Cochetel spoke recently in a TED platform, urging people not to forget these aid workers.  “We should not let the light of hope these people bring to be switched off.” He certainly did not let his light fade, even when he had only 15 minutes of it each day!

Yet some light of hope appears to be dimming in humanity when we kill workers who help others in great times of distress. These workers assist for no other reason than kindness and the care of people. What does it mean to be human if we murder those who care for others? Are we no better than animals? If we kill humanitarian aid workers, we’re like the wild beasts of the field… the killing fields.

We must send a message to the world that to be human is not animalistic! We are better than that. We need to show people that they’re created in the image of God, knowing right from wrong. We’re sacred beings so unique that we must rise above our circumstances and stand against this darkness that threatens to snuff out our light to a flicker of despair. We cannot lose faith, and must shine brightly into any darkness that terrorizes hope.

Where does our hope come from? In the promises of God for a greater tomorrow, knowing that there is more to our lives than just our five senses. There is a supernatural element to our essence! Some have lost that mystery, and life then lost its sanctity. As Cochetel said earlier, one life matters—yours, mine, anyone who has a heart to help others. Each life matters!

One Comment

  1. Mario Quintana April 7, 2015