Think globally, act locally
During this dawning of a new and crucial decade, we are reminded of the above slogan. Just after midnight of New Year’s Eve, a dozen or so residents gathered in a small park at the crossroads of Dundonald Street and Court Street in Hamilton, spending the first hour of 2020 sharing candlelight and conversation regarding peace.
The gathering had been inspired by a symbolic act a few weeks ago on the part of the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Hamilton Diocese, the Most Reverend Wesley Spiewak, and member of the local Muslim community, Imam Emir Saleem Talbot.
These two faith leaders decided to build on an initiative of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, who joined last year in signing a formal document called Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.
While these acts were symbolic, Talbot has meditated on peace and worked towards that end for decades. The fruit of that labour is evident in his neighbourhood — the Devil’s Hole community.
By unfortunate contrast, it is disappointing that within the first days of the new decade, Donald Trump decided to take an action that most global leaders contend threatens world peace. The question could be asked: what was he thinking?
These contrasting scenarios offer a lesson in social dynamics — global and local.
Evidence of “what was he thinking” is provided by Trump’s own Twitter account between 2011 and 2012, when he tweeted at least five times allegations about Barack Obama when he was President of the United States.
All these tweets were variations of the following theme: in order to win the next election, Barack Obama will start a war with Iran.
However, during his second term, rather than starting a war with Iran, Obama made evident what he was thinking when his actions facilitated the historic Iran nuclear agreement. This unprecedented international negotiation exemplified peace-building. It was agreed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, Germany, the European Union and Iran.
Once Trump was elected president, he began a process to destroy the agreement with the help of Saudi Arabia, whose government is one of the most undemocratic regimes in the world.
In Bermuda, Talbot has demonstrated that peace-building is a process that takes patience and perseverance. Devil’s Hole was known as one of the island’s crime hotspots by the police three decades ago. While Talbot had grown up in Devonshire, he moved back to his roots in Devil’s Hole 30 years ago.
A graduate of Howard University’s School of Engineering, he has served teaching mathematics and science at various high schools. He expanded his passion to foster the development of young people by founding X-Roads Warriors Football Club, which has played an important role in transforming the Devil’s Hole community. This, along with his leadership in the local Islamic community, has leveraged the effectiveness of his work.
The success of X-Roads can be seen on the field of play. Notwithstanding being one of the smallest clubs on island, they were promoted to the Premier Division at the end of the 2016-17 season. Notwithstanding the club’s seemingly meagre resources, they continue to punch above their weight. In addition, Talbot has been able to encourage players to develop their full potential on and off the pitch, as he has with his own children who have become successful in medicine, international business and entrepreneurship and other ways — all while giving back to their community.
This example potentially offers other Bermuda neighbourhoods something of a template. There are sports clubs that have significant challenges regarding fostering peace in their neighbourhoods. I’m sure that Talbot would make himself available to consult with both the relevant governmental and non-governmental agencies in this regard.
The actions of the Trump Administration are beyond our immediate control. That said, as we closely observe their “acting out”, we are asked to reflect on how we think and act in those circumstances over which we do have some control.
During these early days of this new decade, one way to “think globally and act locally” may be to popularise the greeting used by Saleem Talbot and his fellow Islamic community:
“As-Salaam-Alaikum” (“Peace Be Unto You”).
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