Middle East | 21 december 2018 | by Jan Gruiters


A spark of hope

There is hope in Yemen. A spark, a hint of hope. Until recently, journalists haven’t been writing about Yemen in these terms. Yemen has degenerated into the worst humanitarian disaster in a long time. The country has become the symbol of unbearable human suffering, of political indifference. Hope in Yemen. And that in the days leading up to Christmas. It’s almost hard to believe.

Is there reason for hope? Yes, is the immediate reaction. In Stockholm, warring parties agreed to a cease-fire. After nearly four years of bombing. After more than 10,000 deaths. After a famine that threatens the lives of 20 million people, a truce for the people in Yemen is a glimmer, a hint of hope. Light in a long inky-black night.


And after thinking about it? Is there also reason for hope on closer consideration? There were reports of new battles after the cease-fire was signed. Residents heard rockets, mortars and machine gun fire in the outskirts of Hodeidah, the old port city so crucial for the food supply. It’s tough to face up to it, but that spark of hope, that hint of peace, is still so fragile. The night is still so dark; will there ever be a new morning in Yemen?


The workaday reality gives little reason for optimism. And yet there are people who consider it a duty to be optimistic. That appeals to me. In the future, all possibilities remain open, both good and bad. Change is possible. Together we can help shape the future through what we do. Yes, it is our duty to support, within our capabilities, everything that can lead to a better future. Optimism as a duty is preferable to pessimism that predicts an evil outcome and extinguishes every last spark of hope.

During this Christmas-time, now that the nights are long and dark, I realize that in addition to optimism as a duty, hope is also needed as trust. Vaclav Havel wrote, “Hope is not the same as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Hope is trust in goodness that has yet to become visible. How often does it happen that we do not know how something can be reversed? How can Yemen, as a symbol of human suffering, escape its dark fate? That fate seems inevitable. But what remains is hope. Hope that in the words of Havel is “a quality of the soul… an orientation of the heart anchored beyond the horizon.”


For this hope, for this desire for peace, courage and audacity are needed. A stubborn commitment to make a difference. And sometimes also patience to wait for what comes. If we look closely, a first kernel of peace is often already present, the future has already begun. We must keep an eye on the sparks of hope and hints of peace that arise again and again, which we can join, which we can support.

Christmas is the moment we once again can see a new light. Light that gives new life to hope and hints of peace. And light that sparks new life in ourselves. Let us hope and pray that the truce will hold in Yemen. And let’s do everything we can to help it be so.


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