Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot, UK
Often as the New Year counts down I will say a prayer; this year I raised my hands in silent prayer a couple of minutes before midnight. It was silent around me and I thanked God for the blessings He had given me and prayed for my family. No one was close but I knew the moment the clock struck midnight because immediately the stillness of the night was broken by a series of bangs and whistled as the now traditional New Year fireworks exploded into my awareness. I ignored the noise as best I could and continued my prayers.
On completing a couple of minutes after midnight I glanced outside and saw the loudest bangs I had been hearing were appearing from a near neighbour’s garden. Looking out from the front and back windows I noticed dozens of different sets of fireworks going on; the New Year was truly being ushered in with a bang.
In childhood, when fireworks were an occasional Bonfire night occurrence, I would have been fascinated with the spectacular colours, lights and noise; this time my thoughts went to Yemen. Were people there hearing bangs such as these? What about Syria and all the other places around the world where bombs fall?
A close relative on a recent visit from Yemen told me how they and their neighbours would move to the inside rooms of their houses to be a little more protected when reports of an attack were made. She said how this had become a part of life for them so when our Government admitted British bombs were being dropped in Yemen I felt even more sick at the thought.
Yet all around the world throughout New Year’s Eve from the first midnight onwards the New Year was celebrated with the loud bang of fireworks which were reported every hour on UK news in a countdown until our midnight. Where previously people would hold New Year parties with music and drink now additional New Year firework parties have become the norm.
The sense of unease that hit me, the thoughts of conflict around the world, fits in with the kind of year that has just ended. When 2016 began (in the same explosive way) the world seemed a different place. My daughter was studying in The Netherlands, travelling easily through Germany, Belgium and France to reach there. The shockwaves of 2016 had not yet hit – the vote to leave the EU, Donald Trump being elected president, the murder of a British MP, the rise in hatred and intolerance in many countries of the world, worsening effects of climate change, even the deaths of so many people in the public eye – all of this has resulted in 2016 leaving us with a sense of shock, of unease and of bewilderment at what the future holds. Events we previously thought of as a surreal possibility have come to pass and are reality and now we must see what the future holds and face it.
The fact that there were inspirational people and events leaves us with light in the tunnel that is the future. Brendan Cox’s dignified and inspirational response to the murder of his wife with calls for tolerance was one which stands out; the fact that Austria voted against the far-right candidate is also a spark of hope.
Breakthroughs in science including advances in research fighting diseases are a positive contribution to the year as was Tim Peake’s stay on the International Space Station. If Europe, Russia and the US can successfully partner on the ISS why can’t they find more common ground here on Earth? Even the fact the latest two Star Wars films have strong female leading characters is a positive and Leicester’s Premier League victory put a smile on most people’s faces!
Often we rely on the news media to tell us what is going on in the world but this can lead to an overdose of negativity as wars and terrorism are given so much coverage. Where there are beacons of hope we must grasp them and build on that hope to construct a better future.
Thus I began this New Year with prayers for my family, community and the world and I’ll continue to pray that God grant us this future with hope for peace and justice for all.