The New Ukraine

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Vladimir Putin likes to characterize the Euromaidan movement and the current government of Ukraine as a band of fascists and raging anti-Semites; the facts tell a different story. Alone among the former Soviet republics, the “new” Ukraine fosters an atmosphere of diversity and religious tolerance in a region scarred by intolerance.

Russia’s heritage of autocracy, fervent nationalism and religious exclusivism provided fertile ground for persecution of minorities long before Soviet commissars appeared on the scene. State-sponsored pogroms drove more than two million Jews from Russian territories between 1880 and 1920. The Soviets simply added a new layer on an already sordid history.

… we have joined forces with the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation to co-host a Forum on September 25th at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and religious leaders will continue to play a major role.

Now, as the ugly face of oppression shows itself in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainians are standing up collectively to tell Mr. Putin, “No more.”

Even today, separatist thugs have barged into public services, despoiled sacred treasures, abducted clergy and brutally assassinated leaders of every communion. In response, the heads of the major confessions in Christianity, Judaism and Islam have banded together to appeal to their counterparts in the West — appeals that have gone largely unheeded — and visited the United States to enlist support.

The government of Ukraine wholeheartedly supports this “new” Ukraine. Just this week, the Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, met with the leaders of the World Jewish Congress to discuss the best ways to fight anti-Semitism and plan a commemoration for the 75th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, a horrifying moment during World War II when the Nazis slaughtered more than 33,000 Jews on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Save Ukraine Now works to foster this same spirit of remembrance and unity to create a new future. Our kickoff events for Ukraine Survival – a campaign to fill shipping containers with emergency supplies for Ukrainian refugees – achieved participation by all the major confessions, an unprecedented accomplishment even in the “new” Ukraine. Participants included Bishop Metropolitan Epiphanius of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Bishop Ian Sobilo of the Roman Catholic Church; the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich; Bishop Valeriy Reshetinskiy representing evangelical churches of Ukraine; and the Mufti of Ukraine, Sheikh Ahmed Tamim. Video greetings were sent by Patriarch Filaret Denysenko of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk, Bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia.

Moreover, as our Ukraine Survival campaign continues to gather momentum nationwide, we have joined forces with the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation to co-host a Forum on September 25th at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and religious leaders will continue to play a major role. Expected guests will include Bishop Daniel (secular name: Volodymyr Zelinsky), Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.; Patriarch Filaret Denysenko, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate; Bishop Valeriy Reshetinksiy, Ukrainian Missionary Church; Father Victor Simon, Secretary General, Caritas of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine; Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka, Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia; Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk, Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine; and Sheikh Akhmed Tamim, Mufti of Ukraine, Head of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Ukraine.

The Russians, in their ham-handed fashion, have helped to forge harmony and cooperation among long-competing confessions and have united Ukrainians of all stripes in opposition to their efforts to build a neo-Soviet empire. This “new” Ukraine may represent the best hope for freedom and opportunity throughout the former Soviet Union.

SUN and U.S.-Ukraine Foundation Join Forces to Host Forum on Capitol Hill

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The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Save Ukraine Now will co-host a Forum at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on September 25, 2015, on the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ongoing Battle for Freedom: The Risk of Western Failure in Political, Economic and Humanitarian Assistance, will gather U.S. and Ukrainian leaders from government, religious and non-profit sectors to evaluate the impact of the current crisis in Ukraine and the needed responses. General (ret.) Wesley Clark, Chairman of the Board for Save Ukraine Now, will address the gathering as the keynote speaker. Other confirmed speakers will include Michael Saakashvilli, Ukraine’s Governor of Odessa, and Ukrainian Cabinet Ministers will participate as well.

The UN has reported that five million people, including 1.7 million children, need critical humanitarian assistance yet only 34 percent of the support has been pledged and funded by the international community.

The UN has reported that five million people, including 1.7 million children, need critical humanitarian assistance yet only 34 percent of the support has been pledged and funded by the international community. The Forum will let the people of the region know that the world has not forgotten them, and it will serve as a rallying point for action.

The Forum will start with addresses on the current situation in Ukraine, with attention to the political, economic and humanitarian dimensions of the crisis. The Forum will continue by discussing practical solutions to humanitarian and development issues, with working sessions designed to result in commitments to action.

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Save Ukraine Now, in cooperation with the Ukraine Embassy, have forged a broad coalition to support the event. The bipartisan House and Senate Ukraine Caucuses will sponsor the event, and attendees will include members of Congress, Ukraine cabinet members and other international leaders. The leaders of major religious confessions from Ukraine will also participate in a demonstration of the solidarity that has characterized their response to the crisis.

Most of the discussion in Washington has focused on the political and military aspects of the crisis, and the Forum is designed to provide a 360-degree focus to the crisis by covering all types of assistance and encouraging cooperation among various groups.

For more information about the event, please visit www.saveukrainenow.com/dc-forum-welcome.html.

Cecil the Lion and Moral Outrage

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Last week, 675,000 people unleashed a torrent of moral outrage on Twitter when a dentist from Minneapolis illegally killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe. Within 24 hours, the story had gone global. Many were appalled at the way Cecil was lured off a game preserve and brutally killed.

A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Europe unlike anything since the end of the Second World War, but Cecil the Lion dominates the news as an overnight international sensation …

675,000 tweets. It was an amazing response.

Everyone has a stake in conserving our environment and protecting rare species. Both Jewish and Christian traditions command stewardship of the earth as an essential element of our humanity. The survival of the planet depends on us taking that mandate seriously.

But, in the last 15 months, more than two million people have been driven from their homes by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. More than five million need humanitarian assistance. As many as 700,000 children suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Winter is coming to Ukraine. Twitter has been almost silent.

A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Europe unlike anything since the end of the Second World War, but Cecil the Lion dominates the news as an overnight international sensation, and the moral outrage of millions falls on the head of the world’s most infamous dentist, Dr. Walter James Palmer.

In the meantime, scant outrage is directed at Vladimir Putin and his gang of kleptocrats who spent the last 15 years looting Russia and who now grab everything that isn’t nailed down in eastern Ukraine.

Some political leaders point to the modest sanctions leveled against Mr. Putin and his inner circle. But the EU will almost certainly relax those sanctions in the next year. The pressure from business leaders in Germany and France will force their leaders to cave.

That’s why Save Ukraine Now and the US-Ukraine Foundation are organizing a forum on Capitol Hill, September 24th and 25th. Sponsored jointly by the Senate Ukraine Caucus and the House Ukraine Caucus in cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy, “The Neglected Crisis in Ukraine: The Risk of Western Failure in Political, Economic and Humanitarian Assistance,” will gather U.S. and Ukrainian leaders from government, religious and non-profit sectors to evaluate the impact of the current crisis in Ukraine and the needed responses. General (ret.) Wesley Clark, Chairman of the Board for Save Ukraine Now, will address the gathering on the first day as the keynote speaker.

We should all care about Cecil the Lion, but the human victims of wanton aggression are crying out for our assistance, and we can prevent their deaths.

For more information about the Washington Forum, please click here.

— Submitted by Dr. Gary Kellner

Saving Ukraine One Container at a Time

This map dramatically outlines the areas of Ukraine that are vulnerable today
This map dramatically outlines the areas of Ukraine that are vulnerable today

Save Ukraine Now has sent multiple shipping containers as part of the Ukraine Survival campaign with emergency supplies for more than 1.4 million refugees throughout the nation.

The shipping containers [have each been] filled with hundreds of boxes of supplies from organizations in Detroit, Baltimore, Orlando, and Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Fifteen campaigns are also underway in cities of all sizes …

The shipping containers, with a volume of 8 ft. x 8 ft. x 40 ft., are each filled with hundreds of boxes of supplies from organizations in Detroit, Baltimore, Orlando, and Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Fifteen campaigns are also underway in cities of all sizes including Chicago; Warren, Michigan; Meadville, PA; Spencerport, NY and New York City.

Ed Michael, Senior Pastor of Eastern Assembly of God in Baltimore, said, “My congregation was deeply moved when Dr. Kellner showed us the video of the suffering people of eastern Ukraine, and when we realized more than a million people were affected, we knew we had to act. The Lord has blessed us with so many material comforts in the United States, and we felt compelled to share some of them with our brothers and sisters in that war-torn land.”

Dr. Gary Kellner, President of Save Ukraine Now, added, “Americans always respond generously once they realize the true extent of the need. It is amazing to see how quickly the local teams fill these shipping containers once their hearts are touched by the plight of the people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.

“The burgeoning humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine has rapidly outstripped the resources of the Ukrainian government, international aid agencies and NGOs. More than two million men, women and children have been driven from their homes, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Unless NGOs and faith-based communities step up, people will get sick and die. Filling containers is not an option; it’s a necessity.”

According to UNOCHA (United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), it will take more than $330 million to feed the internal displaced persons. Of that, no more than 10 percent has been spent to date.

Save Ukraine Now has created a unique micro-distribution network of 12,000-to-15,000 local Ukrainian churches, synagogues and mosques to speed emergency supplies to remote villages in eastern Ukraine. The Office of the President in Ukraine expedites customs, provides transportation and guarantees security. SUN also works with larger relief organizations to fill gaps in service as these groups are stretched to the breaking point by the volume of the need.

New Momentum for Save Ukraine Now

(left to right) Leo Bard, Executive VP, Save Ukraine Now; Dr. Gary Kellner, President, Save Ukraine Now; Pastor Alfred Cockfield, Jr., God’s Battalion of Prayer; Ali Cinar, Vice President, Turkish Heritage

Save Ukraine Now has passed the aspirational stage and is stepping up to become a major player in humanitarian relief for Ukraine. After kick-off events in Chicago and Detroit, Save Ukraine Now has filled multiple shipping containers with emergency supplies and sent them to the nation, thanks in part to the stellar work of the Detroit Ukrainian American Civic Committee. The Committee has filled two containers and has raised more than $165,000 for SUN.

SUN’s strategy of building these collaborative partnerships has mobilized thousands of people across the country.

Our New York City network is also making major strides thanks to the leadership of SUN Executive Vice President, Leo Bard, in building a strategic alliance with the Assembly of the World Diasporas. The Assembly has brought together a nationwide consortium to support charity events for Ukraine and to organize both ethnic communities and volunteer groups to collect clothes, blankets, medical equipment and supplies, hygiene items and food.

Our diverse support from faith-based organizations rose to the next level as Mr. Bard started to mobilize the Muslim community to help those displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization, offered the use of more than 3,000 square feet of storage space in a neighborhood community center to store donated goods.

The Assembly of the World Diasporas also helped to enlist Chicago-based Re-MED Services and secured their commitment to contribute medical equipment and products worth $100,000. Similarly, the New York-based company, Vitaly Homecare Supplies, will donate similar items worth $104,000.

Pastor Gilford Monrose of the Mount Zion Church of God and Pastor Alfred Cockfield, Jr. of God’s Battalion of Prayer Church will help with the logistics, organizing the collection of donations in their parishes and arranging a press conference for New York media at the Brooklyn Borough Hall. President Ravshan Tagiyev of the Assembly of Nationalities of Ukraine will provide critical sponsorship and organizational assistance and will help with coordination as well.

Other communities are stepping up independently. The Spencerport Ministerial Alliance in New York is sponsoring a city-wide initiative in September. Living Waters Community Church in Meadville, PA is launching a similar effort soon, and Church in the Son in Orlando, FL is already underway.

SUN’s strategy of building these collaborative partnerships has mobilized thousands of people across the country. While we can’t report on every new development in this blog entry, we look forward to acknowledging many of our key relationships in a new section of our website, currently under construction.

Thank you for all you do.

— Gary Kellner

The Threats of Freedom and Democracy

Abraham Lincoln described America’s democracy as a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” In other words, the supreme power is vested in its citizens and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. The society and culture are characterized by a formal equality of rights and privileges.

Russia is not, and never has been, a democracy because its government never derived its authority from the people through free and fair elections. It is a government created by the old KGB crowd and the corrupt oligarchs who created the perfect kleptocracy.

Democracies are never perfect because they reflect the imperfect human beings who created them. But, for all their shortcomings, the US and Canada are vibrant democracies.

Russia is not, and never has been, a democracy because its government never derived its authority from the people through free and fair elections. It is a government created by the old KGB crowd and the corrupt oligarchs who created the perfect kleptocracy.

That’s why Vladimir Putin feels so threatened by the Maidan Revolution and its aftermath. The Maidan represents the second democratic uprising in a decade on Russia’s border. Its pointed rejoinder to former President Victor Yanukovich empowers “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Putin is not threatened by his enemies; they have either been cowed into submission, imprisoned or murdered. The Lilliputian opposition to his autocratic rule lacks sufficient money and “administrative resources” — a Russian euphemism for the ability to manipulate the outcome of an election.

Putin is threatened by a prosperous, stable and democratic state in Ukraine. Threatened because the hunger for freedom is contagious. Threatened because if Ukraine succeeds its Russian neighbors will discover the difference and want the same for themselves. And that’s why Putin’s disinformation machine works overtime to paint Ukrainians as fascists and raging anti-Semites. It’s powerful propaganda; it just isn’t true.

Ukraine has emerged as the most religiously diverse and tolerant of the former Soviet Republics, as the rabbis of Ukraine demonstrated in their response to the charges of Putin’s minions during the Maidan. We have also seen it powerfully illustrated through the “Spiritual Council” of Save Ukraine Now, encompassing Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, that gives strategic direction and insight to SUN’s activities in the country. In April, they traveled together to the United States to help launch Ukraine Survival, our national campaign to alleviate the suffering of refugees in eastern Ukraine.

This new reality in Ukraine, paradoxically fostered by Putin’s belligerence, will not be reversed because the Ukrainians are determined to be free themselves. In so doing, they may become “the last, best hope” for the Russian people.

— Gary Kellner, President, Save Ukraine Now

The Multiplier

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We can accomplish more working together than we ever can apart. That’s a basic insight of both the Jewish and Christian traditions. More than 3,000 years ago, King David wrote:

One can put a thousand to flight,  And two can put 10,000 to flight.

One of the Proverbs says: “Many hands make light work.”

A young rabbi from Galilee said something similar a thousand years later:

Whenever two or three of you agree, touching any one thing, it shall be done.

Working in conjunction with the Ukrainian-American Civic Committee and local faith communities, the campaign has packed more than 1,500 boxes with clothes and basic necessities of life …

Which is to say, cooperation is a multiplier. We are seeing this in cities across America in our Ukraine Survival Campaign, a national effort to fill shipping containers with the basic necessities of life needed by 1.4 million persons displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Detroit is setting the pace for the national campaign. Working in conjunction with the Ukrainian-American Civic Committee and local faith communities, the campaign has packed more than 1,500 boxes with clothes and basic necessities of life, as well as obtaining larger items such as hospital beds and wheelchairs. It’s enough to fill two containers.

Mayor James Fouts of Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, announced a city-wide initiative by placing receptacles for collecting clothes on city property and including a flyer with residents’ water bills requesting donations. As a result, hundreds of people have connected to the project who have no Ukrainian roots or connection; they are simply people who care.

Epic Events, a local non-profit organization, sponsored a cruise for 20-somethings on the Detroit River on June 28th to raise awareness and funds for Save Ukraine Now.

The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit has announced a “Children Helping Children” talent show on October 23rd at the Detroit Opera House to benefit Save Ukraine Now, a Syrian refugee relief organization and an African organization yet to be named.

Everyday, stories like these are pouring into our office from Chicago, Orlando, Baltimore and Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Hundreds of faith-based and civic organizations are joining the cause, and we are just starting.

Cooperation has become the multiplier. And we have not yet begun to see what can happen if our campaign goes viral, but we will.

Maidan Born

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Roman Torgorvitsky is Maidan born, which does not mean his birth date occurred during the uprising against the misgovernment of Victor Yanukovich and his gang of kleptocrats; it describes the awakening of this young entrepreneur as a result of what Ukrainians are now calling the “Revolution of Dignity.”

Roman is not even Ukrainian; in fact, he was born to a Jewish family in Moscow and immigrated to the United States at an early age. With movie-star good looks, he could be in show business, but instead Roman earned a PhD at Harvard in mathematical epidemiology. He seemed destined for a brilliant career when the Maidan started.

The Maidan may prove to be the tipping point in the history of modern Ukraine if it releases the same energy and vision to transform Ukraine into a dynamic, prosperous and democratic society.

Roman was visiting Saint Petersburg when he first heard about the revolt. Despite the negative spin of the Russian propaganda machine and its portrayal of the Maidan protesters as fascists and raging anti-Semites, the sight of college kids taking on riot police and Special Forces intrigued him. Roman flew to Kyiv to see for himself.

The young man arrived just in time to witness Yanukovich’s thugs attempt to sweep the streets, guns blazing, on a day now described simply as the “Massacre.” It did not work. At the end of the day, the Maidan protesters held the square. Roman was captivated by their vision, faith and sacrifice.

He went home to Boston but intently followed developments during the next few weeks. In short order, the Yanukovich government collapsed; Putin occupied Crimea and then launched a war in eastern Ukraine. During the next few months, Roman realized he could not sit idly by while a new generation united to secure the fruits of their revolution.

In September, he launched Wounded Warrior Ukraine, a non-profit to offer psychological and physical rehabilitation services to the young men and women returning from the front lines in Donbass. The project also trains Ukrainian vets to provide support for one another and their families.

Roman is not unique or alone. I participated this week in a roundtable in Washington, DC sponsored by the US-Ukraine Foundation. The event gathered leaders responding to Ukraine’s humanitarian catastrophe, and they all described their organizations as “Maidan born.” Most of them were in their 30s and started their efforts less than a year ago.

John Adams once said of the American Revolution, “What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760–1775, in the course of 15 years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.”

The Maidan may prove to be the tipping point in the history of modern Ukraine if it releases the same energy and vision to transform Ukraine into a dynamic, prosperous and democratic society. If it does, it will happen thanks to a generation that was “Maidan born.”

The Power of One

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One man, one container. The result? Thousands of people will receive much better medical care.

Benny Shkop set the pace in our Chicago Save Ukraine Now banquet by committing to fill a shipping container with hospital beds, mattresses, wheelchairs and other medical supplies for Ukraine at a cost of $100,000.

Benny exemplifies the “Power of One,” the ability of one person to make a dramatic difference.

A dynamic and energetic young entrepreneur, he has built a global business by selling refurbished medical supplies to hospitals in developing countries. A few years ago, he learned that some of America’s best hospitals replace equipment every four years instead of the industry-standard ten or twelve. Benny founded ReMed to furnish this medical equipment to hospitals unable to afford newer systems.

Leo Bard, our Executive Vice-President, and a key member of our Chicago team, heard about Benny’s business and approached him about shipping medical supplies to Ukraine. Benny eagerly committed to filling a container for just $10,000—a fraction of the value. After the Save Ukraine Now banquet in Chicago, he dropped that number to $3,000.

There is it—the Power of One.

One man, one container. The result? Thousands of people will receive much better medical care.

A few days later, I spoke about Benny’s commitment at a church in Meadville, Pennsylvania. A young couple decided they would give $3,000. With a trembling hand, the husband handed the pastor a check at the end of the service. They had never done anything like that before.

And there it is again—the Power of One.

Stories like this are happening every week in Save Ukraine Now as individuals discover the Power of One.

Two women, Ulana Kushner and Vera Andruskiw, caught the vision for organizing a city-wide effort in Detroit. They built an elite steering committee of 40 people from 20 organizations and held a regional prayer breakfast for religious leaders, a premier event with General Wesley Clark at the renowned Detroit Economic Club, a fundraising banquet and a strategic briefing. More than 1,000 people attended.

And there it is one more time—the Power of One, or, in this case, two.

But the story does not end there. James Fouts, the mayor of the City of Warren, Michigan, home to a substantial Ukrainian-American community, attended the banquet and was duly impressed. He declared a Save Ukraine Now Initiative to fill shipping containers and even directed the city Water Department to include a promotional flyer in the residential bills.

And that illustrates an interesting corollary about the Power of One: it multiplies.

And as it does so, Americans will catch a vision of what they can collectively accomplish. The Talmud says, “He who saves a life, saves the world entire.” That’s the Power of One.

Tipping Point

Every humanitarian crisis is unique, shaped by the culture, the resiliency of the people and the ability of the government to respond effectively. Man-made crises differ markedly from those caused by an act of nature.

Yet certain similarities repeatedly manifest themselves: the breakdown of civil order at the disaster scene, death and destruction. The very real human face of suffering, of helplessness, touches our hearts. And those of use who live well feel compelled to do something, anything, for the victims.

The onslaught of the crisis may start slowly at first – unless it is a titanic force of nature like a hurricane, an earthquake or a tsunami. But at a certain point, every humanitarian crisis reaches a tipping point, a fulcrum, when things will either get better or get very, very worse. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reached just such a tipping point.

But at a certain point, every humanitarian crisis reaches a tipping point, a fulcrum, when things will either get better or get very, very worse. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reached just such a tipping point.

The statistics amplify the magnitude of the situation. Up to 1.2 million refugees have flooded into almost every city in the nation. Five million people require some form of humanitarian assistance, 1.7 million of them children. At least 6,090 people have been killed and 15,429 wounded from mid-April 2014 to April 2, 2015 (UNOCHA Situation Report).

To frame the situation, more than 10 percent of Ukrainians have been directly impacted by the conflict in the East. Their families, friends, churches and synagogues have responded heroically; but every day, they fall farther and farther behind. The people of Ukraine were going about their daily routines a year ago, working at their jobs, enjoying weekends with their families, celebrating birthdays and weddings.

To truly understand what has befallen them, consider the food delivery system in the United States. It relies on a complex set of interactions before we can go shopping at the supermarket. These interactions include growing, health inspections, trucking and price setting so everyone makes a healthy profit without overly burdening the end user, the consumers struggling to support their families.

What if the crises we experienced in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Sandy became a regular fact of life? What if our fellow citizens could not find food and water? What if lifesaving medicines were unavailable?

That is what has happened in eastern Ukraine, where there are entire regions with no open supermarkets, where half the hospitals have been closed, where 70 percent of the medical personnel have fled, where children have lived in bomb shelters for months.

How long would our democracy survive in the face of such terrible realities?

That’s why Ukraine Survival, a program to ship emergency supplies to Ukraine must succeed. That’s why we must stand with a country that seems far removed from our daily lives. Because they’re not really that far away after all.