Story by Jon Dillon, Casework and Outreach Associate, Washington, DC
Many people around the globe struggle against discrimination whether because of their race, religion, gender, or political opinion. I myself have felt the burn of being passed over and looked down upon solely because of sexual orientation. These biases are often engrained in our societies, which in turn, often produce people inclined to categorize groups into us and them, often with a negative slant or outcome toward the “them.”
Luckily, there are also people and societies that teach tolerance and acceptance of difference. For centuries, these crusaders have promoted the tenants of what we now call human rights. They have also built organizations and institutions whose work is either based on these notions of impartiality or to protect it.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has enshrined impartiality as a fundamental principle, to “make no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.” This principle has allowed the organization to protect the lives of millions around the globe regardless of who they are.
In looking at the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross Red Crescent, there’s an obvious connection to impartiality. Everyone, regardless of who they are deserves and has the right to family. From reuniting a family separated by sectarian violence to maintaining communication between a detainee and his loved ones, the Movement puts aside the biases of our societies to meet the needs of individuals.
There is also a less obvious form of impartiality rooted in this work. We reconnect families, but that word means many different things to different people because of culture and lived experience. Who are we to say the boy who helped you survive the concentration camps of World War II isn't family? Or the neighbors who raised you like you were their daughter? Or the friends who became family when your own kicked you out? And so we don’t. We take into consideration all the various forms family can take and reconnect those in need and want of communicating with their loved ones.
So in the end, the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross Red Crescent is in definition, impartial, along with in principle and practice. And going back to the Movement’s interpretation of impartiality, this stance truly allows us to be guided by the needs of those we serve, from the unaccompanied minor who lost his family’s contact information, to the Holocaust survivor hoping that beyond all odds another family member survived, to the wife separated from her husband by a typhoon. We will stand by you, and we will reconnect.