“For every attempt made by marginalized people to express anguish and seek change for historical (and ongoing) harm, there’s always pushback from those who demand that we suffer only in the expected ways, express that suffering with an acceptable tone, and end both our suffering and our complaints on demand.”N. K. Jemisin, 2019
While tangible progress has been achieved in some areas of human rights, it remains that racism still too often goes unacknowledged, migration narratives are discussed on terms dictated by reactionary politicians and European international development policies are based on premises and assumptions inherited from colonial times.
To the objections of “aren’t you being more divisive?” or “why focus on the negative?” the answer is this: because racism kills, because inequality can be fatal, because aid can harm. When so many lives are rendered precarious by policies and politics, being complacent is to be complicit.
Promoting policies that respect the intrinsic equality of all people everywhere, and contributing to infusing Quaker values of peace, justice and equality into European policy-making and practice are the cornerstone of QCEA’s work and in order to achieve justice and equality: injustice and inequalities need to be named and addressed. We cannot rush to the happy end without first acknowledging the pain and the suffering endured, understanding the systems and structures that create, sustain and maintain inequality, attempting to repair the damage and being inclusive in shaping a world where the equal value of all is recognised.
QCEA’s Human Rights Programme is intent on creating space in the human rights policymaking sphere that challenges and disrupts the deeply embedded hierarchies that render us permanently unequal. In order to achieve this objective, it is crucial to address the fundamental causes of injustice and inequality. It is necessary for our advocacy to be rooted in how human rights are experienced in practice and informed by the voices of the people wilfully pushed to the margins by those in positions of power.
In recent months QCEA has brought people together to reflect on dilemmas slowing down positive change, and explore alternatives to current political narratives on migration. We seek to share perspectives from the outliers who from their position – in the margins – have long been busy working for better outcomes for all. Through various formats QCEA convenes people for meaningful encounters, making sure that the space provided is nurturing to all parties involved. Some will come to hear and some will have to be encouraged to speak, their voices either hoarse for having shouted so long from outside or turned into a whisper because of lassitude or fear. This work will at times feel uncomfortable, unsettling but so is the nature of change.
When apparent stability disintegrates,
As it must—
God is Change—
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
The create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
These words were written in 1993 by Octavia. E. Butler in The Parable of the Sower, a novel set in the 2020s about a world in the throes of man-made climate change and experiencing food and water scarcity. In her book, the United States of America is ruled by nationalist, white-supremacist and religiously conservative leaders. Big corporations exert undue influence over government, health systems have shut down, the economy has collapsed, what’s left of it is rests on exploitative and degrading working conditions. Eerily prescient, Octavia Butler, an African-American woman was quoted saying: “I began writing about power because I had so little”.
Those is the margins have been extrapolating future outcomes from current circumstances, and formulating alternatives. Let us begin to listen.
WATCH: *ENGLISH SUBTITLES for this personal and powerful interview with Belgian MP Kalvin Soiresses Njall, founder of one of Belgium’s leading decolonisation organisations.