With cascading expressions of violence and warfare exploding all around us, Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and so on, I thought to share a poignant, progressive message from an inspirational character in my upcoming novel, Grand Union. The sentiments Sandrine DuMonde express here in her Cairo speech are in no means innovative or wholly original—they have been expressed countless times by courageous champions of peace, human dignity, and survival throughout the ages. In sum, the species really needs listen to our peacemakers and grow up…
In war, it is life that is the loser.
“The moderator introduced her as, “Ms. Sandrine DuMonde, Malteser International. Ms. DuMonde has been active in directing several sanitation and food relief programs with Malteser since 2011. She states: Water is life, sanitation is dignity. Lack of sanitation and hygiene causes 2.4 million deaths annually; it kills more than 4,000 children every day, and contributes to malnutrition. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals call for the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation to be halved by 2015. Malteser is helping to promote World Toilet Day through its WASH program in fourteen nations including Egypt. Please welcome Ms. Sandrine DuMonde.”
“Amid the applause, Sandrine thanked the moderator and moved toward the podium. Her beauty was framed by her purposeful poise and a look of profound sincerity. As she scanned the room’s attendees—she paused—looked down at her notes and then momentarily closed her eyes, mouthed something inaudible, gently closing her portfolio. She snapped her head to attention and began in a clear, determined voice.
“Gentlemen. Ladies. Distinguished colleagues. What we are discussing and what we’ve laid out is a series of problems and analysis about food deprivation. But what we have shared with one another doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. We have nation states politically posturing and battling one another throughout the Middle East and African continent as if we were in a former eon—stuck in time, locked in an obsolete worldview…”
Theo could hear some in the crowd grow restless, but his focus doubled as she continued.
“…our capacity for change and transformation will only come when we view the situation in its truest light: in war, it is life that is the loser. And only when we engage in an adult conversation about the elimination of warfare—in all its forms—making it totally unacceptable to use war or violence as a tool to solve our problems, will we really be getting somewhere. Otherwise we will be doomed to continue to put bandages on a wound that will never heal and eventually prove fatal for our species. Isn’t this ultimately why we’re all here today? Violence can never be the answer.”
Sandrine paused as if to summon a response. She scanned the width of the room. Theo could sense this wasn’t in the comfort zone of the military brass in attendance. There were recent crack downs on civilian protestors with many casualties and deaths on the hands of what was emerging as a military dictatorship.
“Isn’t this why we’ve all been called here today? Not to do what’s convenient or easy? We must do the hard things. I know it’s hard to open your heart to the possibility of new world, but as they say in Hebrew, Habiltey Ef Sharey, Ef Sharey: The impossible is possible. Please, as you mix and mingle with each other today and tomorrow, try to open your hearts. Thank you. Shokran.”
With that, Ms. DuMonde took her seat beside the podium as stuttered applause cascaded through the room, starting slowly, then building to crescendo with several attendees jumping to their feet. Theo stood up, inspired, mesmerized.
As he banged his hands together slowly, deliberately, he caught Sandrine’s gaze and felt like she was only focused on him. He wanted to look around to confirm his suspicion, but the intensity of her eyes locked on his, suspending the moment—they were together, alone, in a very crowded room.