How To Ease Human Suffering


Do you have a word to describe 800,000 people being killed by their friends and neighbours in 100 days?

In Rwanda that word is intambara,  Kinyarwanda for “eruption” or “explosion”.

Set aside half an hour to read Clemantine’s story: from her earliest memories with her family, to three years of hell.

Taken from her home for protection, crawling in the night through fields, bartering in refugee camps, escaping by boat, the constant desire to find out if her family back home were still alive, not being able to go home (too dangerous) and gaining asylum in the US.

If you don’t feel you can spare the time, just read this section:

“I still often feel like the seven-year-old girl, waiting for water at the refugee camp in Burundi, trying to assert that I have a right to take up space.

I scan every room for the exits, in case I need to run, and I read people’s faces and body language so I know how they’d like me to walk, talk, and gesture, what they’d like me to do.

I know I am ridiculously privileged.

I now have so much, and I used to be considered worthless, and nothing about who I am changed.

I try to be grateful, proactive, and normal. I live in San Francisco. I go to therapy and yoga. I post filtered pictures on Instagram, hoping that the images will inspire someone, maybe even get someone to see that there’s some refugee girl in Syria, right now, who is exactly like me.

I think the only hope for the world is for each of us to become a better, more self-aware, more responsible person. To inch us toward the goal, I talk about my life.

I was born in Rwanda 27 years ago. I was raised in nine different countries, eight of them in eastern and southern Africa. The ninth, and my current home, is the United States of America. No, my parents were not diplomats — far from it…

People listen, and they don’t listen. They’re amazed and moved, and they look bored and proud of themselves, like they’re checking a box. I try to be relevant and not frightening.

When people ask me what to do to ease human suffering, I don’t have a big answer. I just say, ‘Look, you have this one life. If you keep being selfish and unkind, it’s going to come back to you. Ask yourself why you’re scared, why you hate.’”

Read Clementine’s story now: “Everything Is Yours, Everything Is Not Yours”


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