The Death of Humanitarian Adventure

Terrorists kidnapped the head of CARE in Iraq yesterday, once again violating the international social compact that has enabled humanitarian groups to provide relief to all parties in a conflict or to victims of natural disaster in the midst of civil unrest. In this case Muslim thugs have violated their own doctrine protecting women from harm, as well.

After Afghan terrorists downed a civilian aircraft earlier this year, killing a pilot whose mission was to transport people who were repairing roads, Stu Willcuts—a veteran of international aid and the president of the world’s premier humanitarian aviation service, Air Serv International—wrote to readers in the relief and development community:

With the bombing of UN offices in Baghdad and now recent incidents, I’ve realized how complicated the equations of mission have become, and how much greater the risk is than at any other time in my more than 30 years of relief and development work.

Those of us in the humanitarian community must come to grips with the new contract. We know that under the new contract a sense of adventure is not enough. Traditionally, many people engaged in international humanitarian missions as a way to find new adventure, while “doing good” at the same time. Today, that is not strong enough motivation. The risks are too great.

Perhaps what we fear above all is what the new contract says about values. While the desire to continue serving reflects the core values of our staff and others who labor even with the dangers starkly placed in front of them, they must face a world where far darker impulses are at work. It is troubling to confront in multiple countries a small group of influential people who live a value system that would put in the cross-hairs people who come with a cup of cold water and a bag of grain.

That alone is enough to sober not only those of us flying planes over troubled lands, but all who care about the forces in conflict in the world community.


About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group ( Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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