As a humanist, it’s disheartening to watch humanity plunge into yet another war. I believe in things like cooperation over competition and the ideal that we all benefit far more when we work together toward a common cause. The empathetic through-line of the human condition causes us to have big feelings about people on the other side of the planet, people we will likely never meet, yet with whom we share so much.
While governments work through issues of diplomacy, sanctions, and hopefully preventing all-out nuclear war, everyday people are putting their humanist values on the frontline to help strangers in need.
Randa Black of Orlando, Florida is an accomplished actor, having appeared in hundreds of national and regional commercials and TV shows, plus the 2010 feature film Action. She’s also an endorsed humanist celebrant and an activist for the separation of church and state. She describes her views as “not against anyone’s religion” but recognizes that, by mingling religion and government, as in many invocation policies across the US, we end up endorsing one religion above all others, and above lack of religious belief.
In early March, she booked an Airbnb in Kyiv, Ukraine. In a message to the apartment’s owner, she said, “I feel for you and your country. I’m from Orlando, Florida[.] I have a short-term rental business, too. I will not be visiting at this time but wanted to send you money. I hope this little gesture finds you healthy and safe. Peace and love to you! You’re welcome to visit and stay with me for free. Please know that the world cares about you and the people of Ukraine!”
Regarding her booking, Randa said, “I wanted the woman to know she is cared about and to send money to help. As a humanist, I think of actions, not just thoughts and prayers.”
Elated, the woman replied, “Dear Randa, today I got your letter and was so exciting for read. Peace and love for you from my heart, doors of my home are always open for you! You touched my heart with your message of love and help. May the God keep you for your kind pure open heart. I can not find words of gratitude and love for your indifferent (sic) attitude to this situation. I sincerely thank you and I am glad for any help. Bombings and explosions everywhere in the city. When everything is over, the doors of my house are open for you!”
Since I learned of Randa’s gesture, this approach has gone viral with people booking rentals across Ukraine and in neighboring nations where many are fleeing for safety.
Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB)—a nonprofit which seeks to end poverty and hunger, promote good health and well-being, and foster employment opportunities and economic growth in ways that exemplify humanist values—supports a network of local groups around the world who regularly work toward these goals in their local communities and beyond. FBB’s Beyond Belief Network Team, “Northwest Chicagoland Humanist Crew”, a small but mighty eighteen-person Facebook group, is collecting clothing, shoes, and blankets for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. FBB also suggests additional ways to support Ukrainians.
Elsewhere, local AHA Chapters and Affiliates, like the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara, are hosting educational speakers to learn more about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, how it affects us in the US and the world, and how we can help. Dr. Adrian Ivakhiv is a Professor of Environmental Thought and Culture at the University of Vermont and Visiting Scholar at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Carsey-Wolf Center. His research on culture and environment has taken him to late- and post-Soviet Ukraine (including a year in 1989-90 as a Canada-USSR Scholar studying the cultural impacts of the Chernobyl nuclear accident) and beyond. He suggests that, in addition to making donations to various organizations supporting Ukrainian resistance, we call our elected officials to express our support for sanctions and reach out to any personal or professional connections we may have in Russia. “When [Russian] State Media is not allowing discussion of the reality of the war, the only way people can find out is if they hear it from enough places,” Ivakhiv says. “Russian support and acquiescence are what allows their government to conduct this assault.”
Roman, a Ukrainian listener of the David C. Smalley Podcast, described on the March 12th episode (#579) how many of the women and children have left the cities for less populated areas or bordering countries, while the men have stayed behind to fight and work. His own family has all stayed, and he continues to work, he says, “so that I can pay taxes because nowadays it’s really critical for our economy to be at least partially running.” Roman believes Ukraine will be victorious and says that seeing the outpouring of support from across the world “gives us the courage to fight for our territory.”
Are you or your local humanist group doing something to support Ukraine? Let us know in the comments!