Don’t forget the good news and the heroes of 2015

Amid the tales of horror and despair in 2015, Rym Ghazal also finds uplifting stories of everyday heroes

Abdul Halim Al Attar stands outside his bakery in Beirut, Lebanon. Al Attar, a refugee from Syria who was photographed selling pens in the streets of Beirut, is now running three businesses in the city (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
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Debt. Crisis. Death. War. Hunger. Refugees. Terrorists. Islamophobia. Fear. Worry. Poverty. Global Warming. Disasters.

These are the words that are being used to describe 2015, a grim year filled with tragedies, including violations of human, animal and even the entire planet’s life, with the past two years recorded as the hottest in recent history.

Despite all this, there have been positive stories – the type that often get forgotten under the massive wave of negativity that sweeps through our news papers and social media.

Let us start by looking at the biggest story of the year, the refugee crisis.

Here is one example we should not forget: Abdul Halim Al Attar, a Palestinian refugee from Yarmouk in Syria, became the poster man of hope. His plight touched thousands of people’s hearts when a photograph of him selling cheap pens while carrying his daughter Reem on his shoulder in the streets of Beirut went viral online.

Today, he is running three businesses in Beirut after a crowdfunding campaign in his name collected $191,000 (Dh701,000). His life and the lives of his family and friends have changed completely, and he is now helping other Syrian refugees by employing them in his restaurant, bakery and kebab shop.

The generosity, kindness and dedication shown to refugees by humanitarians, activists and volunteers around the world should be applauded.

Then there are the sacrifices of those who protect us, keeping our homes, neighbourhoods and countries safe. We salute our men and women in uniform, and anyone who puts others before themselves. Soldiers, police, security guards, doctors, nurses, teachers, mothers and so many others make sacrifices for the rest of us.

There are also journalists who risk everything to expose injustice and give a voice to the voiceless. According to Reporters Without Borders, 110 journalists were killed around the world in 2015. They are heroes.

When it comes to terrorism, we tend to remember the attacks and the perpetrator, but not those who fight back against them.

In May, four Saudi men were killed while stopping an ISIL suicide bomber from entering a Shia mosque in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Three were identified and hailed as heroes on social media: Abdul Jalil Al Arbash and his brother Mohammed, and their cousin Mohammad Hassan Ali bin Isa.

These young men had set up a volunteer checkpoint because of earlier attacks on Shia mosques. CCTV footage shows the suicide bomber, disguised as a woman in a black abaya, trying to enter the mosque but being stopped and pushed away before detonating the bomb. Hundreds were saved by this act of bravery.

In November, when Lebanon was reeling from twin suicide attacks that killed at least 45 people and wounded 200, news emerged of a hero by the name of Adel Termos. He was walking in an open-air market, Burj Al Barajneh, in south Beirut with his daughter when the first suicide bomber detonated his explosives. Amid the chaos, Termos spotted the second bomber preparing to blow himself up, and made the courageous move to tackle him to the ground. The bomb went off, killing Termos, but saving countless others, including his daughter.

There was also good news for the environment: rich and poor countries across the world have finally agreed to take steps to limit and adapt to climate change, a milestone reached in Paris at the Conference of the Parties, COP21.

My personal favourite story concerns what is also a dream of mine. While we have lost Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show this year, he now lives with his family on a 5-hectare farm that will become a sanctuary for abused factory animals.

The past year was filled with stories of kind-hearted people rescuing other people, rescuing animals and even knitting woolly jumpers for battery hens that were released from cages and could not stay warm.

Let us make 2016 even better by being more positively active ourselves. Every effort counts.

rghazal@thenational.ae

On Twitter:@Arabianmau