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93 5 EMPATHY AS POLICY IN THE AGE OF HATRED Amineh A. Hoti Contrary to predictions of a peaceful world order in the post–­ Cold War era, our planet is facing division and conflict on a scale not seen in generations. With leaders like President Trump in America and President Modi in India and other rising right-­ wing party leaders, policymakers must give serious thought to how their decisions can affect the lives of millions of ordinary human beings.1 The refugee crisis unfolding before our eyes is said to be one of the worst humanitarian disasters since World War II, as warfare in many parts of the world rages unabated. In the exodus, refugee families are finding themselves bewildered, desperate, and traumatized—­ an estimated ten thousand refugee children have been lost or killed according to BBC News.2 Meanwhile, countries around the globe find themselves in retreat from the rest of the world as a massive influx of immigrants and refugees—­ the so-­ called Other—­ spurs many to question their responsibilities to themselves and others. In the context of increasingly forced large-­ scale migrations and globalization , the interrelated challenges of preserving cultural and interfaith dialogue assume a new prominence and urgency.3 Some social scientists say that “this is the Age of Empathy,” with the Age of Reason behind us.4 Yet, I would disagree because the unprecedented level of global migration in recent years has tested the empathy of many policymakers, the media, and host communities. Studies show that since the beginning of the twenty-­ first century, there has been an alleged ninefold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism, 94 Amineh A. Hoti and communities such as the Rohingya in Burma and the Kashmiris in South Asia have been victims of genocide due to false labeling of terrorism.5 Instead, it seems that we have entered what I would call “the Age of Hatred.” In this age there is a desperate need for empathy because scholars say that these are conditions not dissimilar to Germany in the 1930s prior to the Holocaust.6 They also talk about an internal enemy—­ “the Jews”—­ and an external enemy—­ “the Muslims.”7 Anti-­ Semitism still rears its ugly head in the world, both in the East and in the West.8 Its counterpart, Islamophobia, sensationalized in the media, has victimized Muslims in the West and has arguably led to the rise of the right-­ wing from America to Europe.9 With hate crimes on the rise, humanity needs to remind itself of its value of acceptance. But far from acceptance, there is a vicious, nightmarish anti-­ migrant mood in Europe. The Hungarians have forcibly locked arriving migrants in asylum prisons and given them a drug called Rivotril (Clonazepam), in which, “you become a zombie.”10 Inmates of the asylum prisons, which are said to be worse than ordinary prisons, become addicted and have tried to commit suicide. Migrants who become ill and need to see a doctor are led through the town on a leash and in handcuffs.11 Czech social media posts and newspaper reports that state that “all refugees and ‘darkies’ should be executed, drowned or sent to gas chambers” are regular features.12 On September 3, 2015, human rights advocates and Jewish groups expressed outrage after Czech authorities wrote numbers on the skin of two hundred Syrian migrants who were pulled off trains—­ they protested that this summoned memories of the Nazis and the Holocaust.13 The media has helped xenophobia spread by not giving full and accurate information on refugees, Muslims, and the Muslim world—­ albeit with a few outstanding exceptions—­ and governments have dragged their feet in decision making in terms of the refugee crisis and have failed to show swift, compassionate acceptance, falling short of human rights and biblical standards of loving one’s neighbors. Many rabbis from their synagogues and priests from their churches have, however, reached out to refugees and continue to do so. Not all hope is lost in building peace in our tumultuous world, however. Some of the leading minds of our time have reminded us of both the challenges and the beauty of bridging differences and seeking common ground. The 2009 UNESCO World Report: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue maintains that Empathy as Policy in the Age of Hatred 95 Divergent memories have been the source of many conflicts throughout history. Although intercultural dialogue cannot hope to settle on its own all the conflicts in the...


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