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Transforming Fear to Joy

Complex Priorities Demand Simple Discernment 

When priorities appear to compete with each other for moral high ground and resources, how do we process these complex challenges into meaningful decisions?

Complex priorities:

•  equal rights for women versus selling arms to Saudi Arabia

•  a healthy planet versus burning fossil fuels

•  humane treatment of refugees versus building ‘refugee reservations’

Although choosing between only two options of either/or is quicker and easier, in my heart I know this type of decision making is too simplistic and limiting. The amount of energy we expend on fighting over which to choose could be productively spent on dialoguing to discover win-win rather than win-lose or lose-lose options.

Having said this, I find myself feeling of two minds today. My initial reaction to Pope Francis visiting Lesbos, Greece, and sponsoring three Syrian families’ immigration to Italy was one of jubilation. The more attention brought to the Syrian refugee crisis, the greater chance more humanitarian solutions will emerge around the world. However, last week I also remember thinking the 25,000 Syrians recently brought to Canada were a mere drop in the bucket as so many more (4 million refugees) need our help. Furthermore, three families versus twenty-five thousand people also seems like a token gesture given the Catholic Church annually spends upwards of $170 Billion as estimated by the Economist in 2012.

Here is where I am not so divided in my thinking. The significance of the Syrian refugee crisis, as a global priority, ranks in equitable measure with our previous two world wars. The question remains as to whether we, as a global society, will step up our efforts for the remaining 4 million. I do recognize that heroes will and are emerging and that judgment and bickering over the skimpy or grandiose nature of humanitarian efforts leaves us powerless to change our experience. So, not wanting to armour myself against learning what needs to change in order to build “global heart and muscle,” I say, “Stay positive. Every little bit counts.”

Additional competing priorities exist for Canadians at a national and regional level. In this country, transitioning to a renewable energy economy has battled to gain ground against the continued production of fossil fuels and pipelines.


The Solutions ProjectImage courtesy of Stanford University: The Solutions Project.org

This controversy emerged as a significant policy difference between the Alberta NDP and the national NDP. Due to its almost exclusive economic reliance on fossil fuels, the Albe