My Opinion

On Faith In Humanity

Modern society is built on tolerance. It is what we teach our children. We don’t judge an entire group based on the actions of a few individuals.

“How do we know they are not terrorists?” the woman at the gym asked. We were discussing an acquaintance wanting to open her basement suite to a family of Syrian refugees. “We know they are not,” I answered as a man sitting nearby shook his head. “They are not terrorists; they are running away from terror,” I clarified. “People are not terrorists.”

I wonder how she feels today. I wonder if, come Monday when I meet her again, she will walk up to me and say “See? We can’t know if they are terrorists. Look what happened in Paris!” Or she might sit there making small talk while thinking the same thoughts: “We can’t trust them. They might be terrorists.”

Here’s the thing: We can’t know whether someone who comes to our country is a terrorist or not, just like we can’t know if our neighbor who has lived in the same house all their life, is a terrorist. It is quite possible that among the millions of men, women, and children fleeing from war, terror, and oppression in Syria and Iraq, there are terrorists. It is equally possible that among those same desperate people, we will find the person who cures breast cancer, invents the next iPhone, or finds a solution to the pervasive conflicts in the Middle East. And while it is possible that among these millions of refugees, there may be a few with bad intentions, we cannot turn them all away. Modern society is built on tolerance. It is what we teach our children. We don’t judge an entire group based on the actions of a few individuals.

How do we know they are not terrorists, whomever “they” are in our minds? We take it on statistics and on faith in human decency. For every terrorist, there are millions of people who abhor terror and want nothing more than for terror to disappear from their lives. And every person we welcome into our lives and treat like a human being is a person that will stand up to terror and let compassion and love for all humans lead the way.

To the woman at the gym I want to say this: “Rather than ask yourself how you know they are not terrorists, ask yourself how you know they are not the people who will stop the terrorists.”

Photo: Heart shaped lock on Pont des Arts in Paris by the author. Original on Flickr.

By Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Morten Rand-Hendriksen is a Senior Staff Instructor at LinkedIn Learning (formerly specializing in AI, bleeding edge web technologies, and the intersection between technology and humanity. He also occasionally teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is a popular conference and workshop speaker on all things tech ethics, AI, web technologies, and open source.

8 replies on “On Faith In Humanity”

I highly appreciate your caption which reads “on faith in humanity”, which sounds a bit philosophical and also radiates your honesty in the heart. If you really mean it please post some free tutorials on Javascript,php, and css through a channel in Youtube.

I agree with the points you make here Morten. And maybe it’s enough to just say that. But personally I can’t limit the scope of my vision to simply whether the ‘refugees’ are terrorists or not.

People who listen only to the mainstream media for the most part don’t realize that the ‘refugee crisis’ is being created and manipulated by people like George Soros. There is a definite purpose–to overwhelm Western countries and destroy them. This starts with the welfare programs. Terrorists or not the people are from cultures that are very different from Canadian, American, or European cultures. There is a huge language barrier. How can the refugees possibly fit into the the Western countries. Will they find jobs? No, there are no jobs to begin with, and as suggested above they will not qualify for most jobs even if they were available. How will they survive then? Welfare.

I am not anti-human. But I don’t believe that multiculturalism works. History shows that it has led to the end of civilizations in the past. My solution is very simple–STOP bombing their countries.

No, Syrian refugees are not coming to Europe and other countries to “overwhelm Western countries and destroy them.” They are very specifically running away from a multi-year civil war waged between the current dictatorial President and the opposition, with ISIS mixed in. Syria is being bombed to gravel not by “us” but by the Syrian government and those who want to topple it. The refugees are fleeing because they want to not die.

As for your question “How can the refugees possibly fit into the the Western countries”? The answer is they’ll fit in the same way the rest of us do: By fitting in. To suggest that Syrians, who are for the most part highly educated and up until the recent civil war lived in a modernized and westernized country, are somehow incapable of integrating into another society, is patently absurd. The same goes for any other refugee from any other part of the world. They flee to safer countries, and make a life for themselves there. Actual hard data shows refugees are neither a burden on the welfare system nor a threat to the country. In fact it’s the opposite: Refugees tend to start small businesses, and contribute back just as much or more than the rest of us.

I recommend you do some research outside your political bubble. What you’ll find is that Canada and the USA were built by refugees.

“Faith in humanity” sounds good to start with. But what is “humanity”? Isn’t it rather folks like Peter, Jane and Morten, people I know and have known for ages, that I have faith in? How can I trust any old Syrian to be “good”?

Yes, the neighbour who has been living next to me all those years, might just be a terrorist. However, chances of him being a terrorist are smaller than average, because I know him and am able to judge, from years of experience, whether he may be a terrorist, or not. This is a result of talking to him, judging him, and him getting to know me, too.

“Faith” is related to God. And God, to me, means relationships to other people. Thus, yes, it is possible to have faith in other people, perhaps even strangers, but it helps to make a detour in order to get there.

“Faith” is defined as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” It is not religious nor related to God or anything else. It is simply the act of trusting that someone or something. And just like you have no reason to think a random person living on your street is a dangerous person, you have no reason to think a Syrian (or any other) refugee is a dangerous person. Statistically neither of these are true. Statistically you are more likely to be killed by a car while going to work than you are of ever meeting a terrorist in your lifetime. Statistically you are more likely to win the lottery than be attacked by a terrorist in your lifetime. Statistically, the chance of a Syrian refugee being the inventor of the next big thing or a medical technology that changes millions of lives is orders of magnitude higher than a Syrian refugee being a terrorist. The fear of these people is not rooted in reality, it is rooted in a fear of the unknown and a media obsession with fringe incidents. Faith in humanity is simply saying “I trust that people act decently.” And statistically that’s the case, for every single one of us.

Canada and the USA were not founded and built by muslims.
If it had been, there would never have been a Bill of Rights or a Constitution.
All ‘other’ religions would have been put to the sword.
Muslims do not want to integrate.
If they were the majority and in power, not one of them would ever speak out for YOUR rights, nor would they ever try to save you, your family, or your brethren from a public beheading.
They have a death sentence on apostasy.
Thank your lucky stars you are not living under a Muslim government.

funny, the largest muslim country (Indonesia) is democratic and not a single sword went there, there were muslim tradesmen and people who saw their honesty and humanity become influenced and converted. (By your logic) European Christians enslaved, tortured and killed 10’s if not 100s of millions of Africans, Natives, Aborigines, I don’t know if you remember first and second world war and the death toll, what were they? still I would never generalise like you do, I was born and raised in Norway and have nothing but love for Norwegians, immigrants and refugees built the Americas and Australia only uneducated people would make presumptions you made no hard feelings mate

one last thing since you said, “Thank your lucky stars you are not living under a Muslim government” look at the golf countries, UAE for instance, western and eastern people dream of getting a job in Dubai (so do I) who happens to be a muslim city under an islamic government 🙂

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