New Year's Letter - 2008

New Year's Letter - 2008

Dear Friends,

Another year has passed.  Many of us believe we spent one more year, but in fact we did not spend the time – the time spent us.   Time will always repeat itself, but we ourselves can never repeat.  Every year, even every day, our lives get shorter.  Every second is one more step toward our future.  As Umar bin Abdulaziz used to say, “Oh mankind!  Day and Night are working on you, so go and work on them”.  Yes.  Day and night are eating our life away, and yet we must build our lives in them.  This is the only opportunity each of us will have.   We all know how many years we have spent, but none of us knows how many more we will have.  We all know our past, but none of us knows our future.  If we just look back, and see how fast all of those years went by, we are surprised at how many gray hairs we have grown, and how many pains have lodged in our legs, and how the signs of aging have accumulated.

Yassin Aref, August, 2007
Yassin Aref, August, 2007

I remembered last year when I sent you a letter for the New Year.  I cannot believe that it was one year ago!  It seems like last month even though I am in a really tough situation, far from my family, living in isolation, spending time in a special jail with very limited contact with the outside world, knowing nothing about my beloved friends.  Yet with all of this, I believe that last year went by very fast.  So imagine how someone living free with great responsibilities and joyful occasions must feel about the passage of time?  This is the nature of our life – short and fast.  At the end, every one will feel sorry, especially those that lost time and did not use every day in their life.  Those who are successful in life are the ones who take advantage from every moment of their lives and use every opportunity to do good things.  They have no time to waste.  It is written in the Quran:

“By time through the ages, verily mankind is in loss, except those who have Faith and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teachings of truth and patience.  Surah 103

Many of you know my situation, so I do not think that you expect much good news, or funny jokes, or new discoveries from me.  I wish I could be the one giving good news all the time, and making people smile and laugh, but I am sorry that I cannot do that.  Instead may my words bring tears to your eyes, and make you take a deep breath of sadness, or just cause you to be silent for a while and think about it.  We cannot laugh at our condition, and it is not right to close our eyes and pretend to see nothing until we feel good again.  No.  We must understand reality, and acknowledge that this is the first step in finding a solution, however hard it may be to achieve. 

I believe we have common concerns for the coming years:

  1. It is sad to see climate change threatening our life and planet.  Some people still have doubts as to whether it is real or not.  And others who believe the threat is real are doing nothing about it, even if it is something as simple as quitting cigarette smoking, or walking more, or riding a bike, or planting a tree to clean the air from pollution, or sending a letter to your representative law makers and rulers telling the government to prevent climate change before it is too late.  It is our planet and it is our responsibility to do something about it.  We have no other place to live.  Anis Mansoor was joking when he said that the last solution for the problem of climate change is to send everyone to live on the Moon or on Mars.  He was joking!  (Or else he was so affected by Nietzsche that nobody can understand him).  Don’t think that all the people on earth can ever move to another planet.  NASA will demand $5 million for each ticket (or some enormous amount) and still there will be no life there.
  2. It is sad that nobody seems to have learned from what happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.  All that blood and chaos has not stopped the politicians from using the language of threats and violence.  And this means more blood, more hunger, more division, and certainly more billions of dollars wasted.
  3. It is sad that many government’s are buying more weapons, and are even looking for nuclear weapons, in order to make peace with their neighbors!!??
  4. It is sad to see an increase in the number of war victims, AIDS, HIV, heart disease, orphans, homeless, refugees, hunger, divorce, discrimination, religious intolerance, and torture.
  5. It is sad to see so many people who do not care about the kind of a planet that they will leave to their children.  They are our children and they expect us to secure a better future for them that builds up the earth and does not destroy life.  What future can the next generation take from the present chaos in Iraq?

We must take all these concerns with us into the new year, and not repeat the mistakes of the past years.  Will our new year be just a new number?  Or will we see new life, real change, a truly different approach?  This kind of transformation is not going to take place unless we ourselves are willing to change.

I wish you all a very happy New Year!

I hope to see real change in this universe in the new year – Justice, Peace, food, medicine, dignity, freedom, and liberty.  These are basic needs for humans, and hundred of millions of us all over the world are searching for them.  Let no one take rest until all receive what they need.

                                                Salaam, sincerely,

                                                YASSIN AREF

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February 24, 2008

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