Ending Genocide with Empathy
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from his/her position. It’s the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. As Ashoka’s Start Empathy school curriculum describes, “[E]mpathizing with the feelings and perspectives of others is the foundation for good communication, teamwork, and strong leadership—no matter what path” someone will take. Empathy allows us the opportunity to be more effective changemakers, folding in the perspectives and experiences of others not only into decisions as leaders but also into our everyday moments.
Albeit not the only tool needed, by offering space for individuals to develop compassion and empathy—from a young age and into adulthood—we can end genocide and mass atrocities. When we see an identity-based hate crime committed against just one person in our community, we are outraged. We are heartbroken. We demand change.
This is why iACT has created the Dr. Elliot Salloway Fund for Empathy. A fund that celebrates and honors our shared commitment towards ending and preventing mass atrocities and ensures iACT’s empathy-based programs thrive.
My Jewish religion has taught me an important concept on life behavior. One of the three pillars of Judaism is the concept of Gemilut Chasidim which translates to “Acts of Loving Kindness.” This prescription for behavior teaches me not only the obligation of giving monetary support to the poor and needy, but to also take on the responsibility of involvement in performing “acts of loving kindness” such as visiting the sick, burying the dead, and even providing support for a bride who has no family. These are person-to-person human and temporal actions, not because they are commanded by God, but because from a human-to-human relationship develops a respect and dignity for others. Such respect ennobles each person as a creation of God. Any harm to your fellow man is not only a destruction of God but a strike against your brother, your family. If the world could be taught such a feeling of relationship, then genocide could be unthinkable. From the protection and respect for each man comes a respect for the whole human race. I have tried to live my life with this principle.
-Dr. Elliot Salloway
Genocide is the world’s worst hate crime. It’s targeted violence against an individual and community because of their identity. Yet, over and over again throughout human history, we have allowed it to happen. Documenting the crimes as they unfold, setting up refugee and displacement camps to help survivors, and then apologizing after for the tens of thousands killed. We even create beautiful documents and policies like the international “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, yet fail to enact them when we have the opportunity to prevent the next one.
We must begin with the individual—a child, a mother, a community leader, you, and me. iACT deeply believes in fostering connection and personal relationships between refugee communities affected by mass atrocities and genocide and you—individuals, families, policymakers, schools, and communities. Through this connection and by creating opportunities to experience that of another, we can become better decision-makers, better leaders, better parents, and better friends. We can learn from each other. We can uncover the emotions that others might feel during an experience, and then work to ensure all our experiences are positive and filled with acts of loving kindness. To do this, iACT has created such tools and curricula as LEAD with EMPATHY, Global Citizens, and Little Ripples; and even each of our Refugees United Soccer Academies is an island of peace in an under-resourced and isolated camp.
iACT is committed to continuing to create these spaces and opportunities to deepen compassion and empathy both here and in refugee camps. We invite you to join our community and be part of the Fund for Empathy.
With Loving Kindness,
Katie-Jay Scott and Dr. Elliot Salloway
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