Why support our small charity? Our school lies in an obscure corner in a country hardly known about in the West. The land that produced Stalin has not yet entered the consciousness of the West and sits fearfully in the orbit of a resurgent and aggressively nationalistic Russia. Looking forward to a future in the European family,Georgia must remain mindful of its Soviet past. Indeed Georgia has always been a crossroads of East and West, a pawn between rival Empires. This is evidenced by Russian,Byzantine, Persian and Turkish influence in the architecture, the places names and faces of its often striking and eclectic peoples. One of these peoples are the Chechens of the Pankisi Valley in the province of Kakhetia. Pankisi is a small valley nestled alongside the Alazani river that winds its way down from mountains that take winding paths to the North Caucasus range wherein lies Chechnya.
What little that is known, at least about Pankisi Gorge, is invariably filtered through the negative lens of counter terrorism which has informed the discourse of a media that by its nature does not thrive on positive stories. Terrorism is the order of the day and whole communities, ethnicities and religions have been demonised and unpersonned for more than a decade now. Muslims are today synonymous with extremism, intolerance and religiously motivated hate. This all too easy characterization demands nothing of the critical mind but a subservient accepting attitude that those who push this portrayal can commandeer the narrative unchallenged. And how gleefully they enjoy the freedom to steamroller all debate or criticism aside. Thus no analysis of history, of the social turmoil that underpins places like Pankisi, nor its ethnological drives inform a debate whose rules were enshrined in a doctrine founded on empty slogans such as ‘War on Terror’, or ‘Axis of Evil’ .
In the case of the cause of Chechens this has served many agendas for a very long time to suppress a longstanding historical injustice of severe oppression characterised by brutal mass deportation and exile and countless wars by silencing the debate behind a exclusive preoccupation on terrorism shorn of its underlying reasons.
Chechnya’s case for independence in the 1990’s started as a vigorous and heroic defence of a state of 1 million people against the might of a Russian Army drawing on the resources of a population of 120 million people plus. By the time of Putin’s first tenure as President, the Chechen caused had withered under the ferocity of cynically guided counter terrorism ‘operation’. The classic colonial policy of internalising conflict led to the creation of fundamental splits in Chechen society for the first time in its recorded history. Clans turned upon each other, a young generation rejected the customs of an antique and dignified culture in favour of the strength of a Wahabbi Islamic viewpoint and fissured an already fragmenting society as the strong and previously healthy traditions of mutual respect between old and young generations was replaced by mutual suspicion and hostility.
Today Chechnya is relatively ‘peaceful’, if peace with countless disappearances of its critics can be considered ‘peace’.
Recent history tells us clearly this ‘peace’ will not last indefinitely and that fundamental injustices drive a simmering resentment that awaits its time to explode. Dictatorship has fallen all over the East of Europe and the Near East with ensuing chaos as destructive forces are finally freed of the fetters of social control. And since dictatorship by its nature has no serious interest in understanding the constituent parts of its subjects, the seeds of its destruction lie patiently awaiting their time whether in the form of religious revival or political counter organisation.
We know well now that these ill effects of unjust governance do indeed have the power to change our own lives, as daily news broadcasts of waves of immigrants risking their lives and their childrens lives throw everything at the chance of a new life in Europe.
A new Europe is being moulded by the chaos on its borders, though we barely can envision its longterm effects as such today-but will Europe be able to continue as the just place we been accustomed to living in since the end of world war 2? The answer is likely no if Europe is filled with multi millions of young and dispossessed peoples with no education, no perspective and no sense of a future. We cannot realistically expect millions of oppressed peoples to readily subscribe to a justice they have no experience of without the clash of values we now experience daily in our towns and cities.
Can we seriously expect to continue to live in such material comforts when millions of people have had their lives devastated by war, had their futures stolen by a past that is history repeated over and over without ever learning the lessons of history? Can we really continue to be ignorant of places like Pankisi? The are thousands of Pankisi’s the world over. Each needs help to move forward constructively and with respect and needs our continued engagement.
What possible good can a small school like the Roddy Scott Foundation do in an overwhelming swell of mass population displacement and ever increasing instability?
It can simply help to show the children, who are our representatives of the future, what possibilities there are that lie in this world. The key to this is as Lenin sloganeered is ‘study, study, study!’ The mind by its nature is set for doing good and only needs to be set in the right direction and hungers for knowledge and education if given the tools and the aspiration and inspiration. Indeed we must not abandon the children to poverty and frustration since the whole of the world is interconnected more than ever today and mandates solidarity and mutual respect. Our mutual destruction is assured if one half of the world is left to languish in war and misery. A more beautiful world is ours to make by choice and effort, but we need a common language-
-The English language is broad in its outlook as it is in the richness of its lexicon. The basis of this is a deep heritage based on Roman influence with underlying Classic Greek ethical and philosophical underpinnings and a native Saxon core. Much more than that, as the language of an intrepid seafaring and outward looking people it has readily incorporated all manner of cultural ideas through its interaction with many other cultures. This richness of worldly experience has made English unmatched as a global lingua franca of commerce, banking, education and computing.
And it is to the latter two that the Roddy Scott Foundation has focused its attention recognizing the importance in the global job market of English language skills and the ability to use information technology. Pankisi’s children in no way lack for intelligence but as with many corners of the world, a lack of opportunity settles into a lack of perspective and aspiration- a fertile breeding ground for ideologies that refuse to meet constructively with the challenges of modern living. We hope that the English language will enrich minds of our pupils and inspire them to follow their dreams and turn them into reality. It is not solely about economics. It is also about cultivating a state of mind, unfettered by linguistic limitations to explore the world of ideas, which in this ever interconnected world needs more and more mutual respect and understanding and benefits from the cross pollination of higher values which all cultures and religions enshrine in different understandings.
Modernity and religion do not have to be enemies, nor do different religions need to draw their knives to settle the word of God on a world where we are all related by genetics, by history – by life itself. Indeed we are one family- the family of man and we must strive in our short lives to leave this world a little better than we found it.
And finally what is more instructive than to know that as Roddy Scott laid down his young life all those years ago in a hail of bullets, in his name new life continues to take form and inspiration. It is a victory of life over death.
Be inspired! Help the children of Pankisi how so you will!