There are 65 million forcibly displaced people in the world according to a United Nations report released last month. A year ago that number was reported to be 60 million. It accounts only for those displaced through ethnic, religious and political persecution, war etc. If we include those displaced by natural disasters, environmental degradation, poverty, labor migration and human trafficking, the figure must be well over 100 million. At any rate, the number is increasing.
Historically, wars have been waged over competition for land and resources as well as ethnic dominance. World War Two had its seeds in such factors. Although it ended seventy-one years ago, we need look back only two weeks to see its lasting effects: Reinhold Hanning was sentenced to five years in prison for his part. Antisemitism still exists.
Many of those displaced by war have been indigenous people. A hundred years ago there was a rubber boom in the Amazon. The indigenous Bora people became enslaved laborers and their number dwindled. After a border dispute between Peru and Colombia, many were forcibly displaced to Iquitos, Peru, where they have become a tourist attraction. I took this photo from a boat as we sailed by one of their villages.
Some modern wars continue the historic heritage but, increasingly, they are wars of ideology — particularly religious and political ideology. These wars are perhaps the most dangerous since, if societies wish to grant their citizens the right to opinion, religious and political ones will be the most commonly adopted.
When Omar Mateen went on his shooting spree last month, he claimed he was ideologically motivated by religion — Islam in his case. Some members of a different religion — Christianity — openly exonerated him due to his victims' sexual orientation. I doubt that they will act on Pope Francis' call to apologize for their discrimination. A few days later Thomas Mair also resorted to murder, but in his case motivated by a claimed political ideology. He later stated his name to be "death to traitors, freedom for Britain." It has taken an unimaginably long time, but we are finally recognizing the mental dysfunction of such people. We may be on the verge of recognizing the categorical distinction between those whose ideological affiliations are conducive to positive mental health due to their social inclusion and those whose social exclusion stems from their delusion that ideology sanctions action. The Bora and other indigenous people have recognized that distinction for a long time.
There has been attention in the media during the last year on the plight of the Rohingya. They are a people indigenous to Burma (Myanmar) who are also forcibly displaced victims of war fueled by religious and ethnic ideology. Aung San Suu Kyi, that country's de facto leader, had a chance to show the humanitarian nature that won her the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, she recently decreed that the Rohingya be known as the euphemistic "people who believe in Islam in Rakhine state." If she truly believes that her policy solves any of her country's problems, she should be placed on the same list of mentally dysfunctional people as Omar Mateen and Thomas Mair.
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