"Things just started to fly. I heard an explosion and everything was upside down. I don't know, I don't know where they all are.''
This is Mahal al-Khatib’s answer to a journalist’s inquiry immediately after a car bomb exploded outside a converted hotel serving as the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad Iraq. Mahal al-Khatib was a secretary working for the UN along with hundreds of other aid workers helping to find homes for displaced Iraqis, distributing food, repairing electricity and defusing land mines scattered around the country.
On August 19, 2003, a cement truck packed full of bombs exploded underneath a window of the office of Brazilian UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello. The terrorist attack—the worst attack on the UN in history—killed 22 people and injured at least 100 more.
One month later, another car bomb exploded in the UN’s parking lot, killing two and wounding 12. On October, 27, 2003, just a little over two months after the devastating attack on UN headquarters, a series of car bombs injured over 220 people all over Baghdad, including an attack on the International Committee for the Red Cross office. It was the first time for a suicide bomber to attack the Red Cross. Fifteen people were killed when an ambulance sped into the Red Cross compound, exploding at its entry gate.
The rush of attacks drove the United Nations to create World Humanitarian Day. Every year, on August 19, the United Nations encourages everyone to not only honor and remember humanitarian workers from around the world who have died while serving and helping others, but also celebrate those dedicated to responding to the needs of victims of disaster and war worldwide.
“More People Than Ever Before Need Our Help”
The World Humanitarian Day 2014 theme is “The world needs more…” The United Nations is asking everyone to step up, become a humanitarian, and join the Messengers of Humanity community to stand up and make a difference in the world. Becoming a humanitarian does not cost money, or time, nor do you need any type of specialized training. In fact, you might just be a humanitarian already. The definition of humanitarian is
1. Having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people
2. Involved in improving people’s lives and reducing suffering
When I asked my 200 plus Facebook friends what the world needs more of, I received these responses:
These reasons why we have World Humanitarian Day—we believe in the human spirit and passing these positive qualities to others. To help others in need during a crisis surely requires patience, compassion, humility, kindness, and love. You might be thinking you are too busy, too tied down, not financially able or too frightened to drop what you are doing and travel overseas to help. However, what the United Nations emphasizes is that humanitarians usually serve in their home countries. World Humanitarian Day starts right here. In our backyards, in our neighborhoods and in our surrounding communities. It is as simples as offering a hug or a warm blanket to someone who just lost their house in a fire, or as far reaching as Fort Worth doctor, Kent Brantly working for Samaritan’s Purse who responded to the needs of thousands suffering from Ebola in West Africa. World Humanitarian Day honors those who have lost their lives in the line of duty—not because they were paid to be there, but because of their love, compassion, understanding, empathy, tolerance, acceptance, hope, kindness and peace.
The world needs more… volunteers. Won’t you start becoming a Messenger of Humanity today and sign up? There are many ways to volunteer. After all, more people than ever before need our help.
What do you think the world needs more of? Add your hashtag below!