Nejoud Al Yagout – — Photo by Djinane Alsuwayeh

Life is difficult, and anyone who thinks otherwise is either living under a rock or too consumed with distractions to realize the state of the world. However, contrary to popular belief, the world is not getting more dangerous; we are simply becoming more aware. Whether this is due to the Internet, social media particularly, or a collective spiritual awakening or shift in consciousness is not important for this article. What is important is: we are becoming more aware.

Last week, the body of Joanna was found in the freezer of an abandoned apartment. The employers were not Kuwaiti. We know their nationalities by now, and it is no longer necessary to reiterate them here in order not to galvanize further judgment – as murder is a global issue and not one confined to any specific region or race.

The timing seemed disastrous, at first. This was only weeks after His Excellency, the President of Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, imposed a ban on OFWs in Kuwait. Upon closer inspection, the divine timing could not have come at a better date. This discovery, so closely after a ban, seemed to create a shock that was followed by a sacred silence, almost as though we secretly acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. Our government promised to provide justice for Joanna, and it seemed as though both the ban by the President in addition to the discovery of Joanna’s corpse brought two nations, on the brink of a diplomatic rift, closer.

Our Emir, ever-ready to defuse tension, has invited the President of the Philippines to Kuwait early next month to find a solution to this ongoing challenge. Unfortunately, drastic measures are sometimes needed to wake us up from our stupor of separation, and in this case Duterte’s ban and the consequent discovery of Joanna’s corpse were the catalysts needed for two countries to join forces to address an issue that has long warranted our attention: the (mis)treatment of domestic helpers.
But why do we have to wait for a tragedy to unite us? Why did a beautiful human being who left behind her family to find a better life have to die for us to awaken? And will her death awaken us, or will we continue to perpetuate this cycle of abuse regardless of where we come from or who we are? Hopefully, we will not take the stance of a Member of Parliament who considered banning expatriates from hiring domestic helpers. This shift in blame will only plunge us deeper into darkness, lest we forget that the ban was implemented prior to the discovery of the victim’s body.

Anyway, may this tragedy in particular (along with the ban) make us all ponder, make our hearts break in order to open; may the tragedy resurrect our collective conscience and remind us that when we are not aligned with love and respect, crimes run rampant. The solution is not just about strict enforcement of laws or the implementation of committees to monitor employers and employees, but about the implementation of a system that reminds us of our equality. And that system can only come from within us. What is external is merely a projection, a manifestation of the thoughts that shape us.

What needs to change is our mindsets. We can no longer afford to view ourselves as superior. We can no longer threaten our domestic workers with deportation if they raise their voices in defense, or keep their passports locked in our safes. We can no longer blame the government’s silence for our actions.

What needs to change is much more than laws to protect the rights of so-called minorities. What needs to change is the belief that there are minorities. Paradoxically, we are among the minorities in our country.

We have learned from other nations that the law only changes what is on the surface. For example, women have been fighting for their rights for eons, and on a superficial level, they have gotten rights, but men still subjugate women; and women are still not paid equally anywhere in the world. This is because the mindset has not changed. The same can be said for the rights of refugees worldwide. There are laws to protect them, but they are still widely mistreated and disrespected and considered inferior.

What Joanna – a martyr for humanity – can teach us is that the only thing that can protect others from such a similar fate is knowing that we are all equal and teaching ourselves and future generations, not in a philosophical manner, but through actual realization. We all live on this planet, so we all have a right to be here, there and everywhere. And while we are here, let’s respect each other. Let’s remember that we are all souls seeking connection. Nelson Mandela wisely stated: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” So, let’s start teaching love!

by Nejoud Al-Yagout