Today it seems like whenever you turn on the news the world appears to be falling apart: take Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Palestine and Iraq. These past few years have witnessed an unprecedented rise in countries going through an armed conflict. It has generally been stated that this is how the world has always been: we need to accept that war comes and goes. Yet, what is not generally spotlighted is the ongoing displacement of individuals from their homes and countries.
The war in Syria alone has resulted in almost 3 million refugees leaving their country, with many settling in neighboring countries, according to the latest UNHCR report. Many of the refugees have resorted to living on the streets of Beirut or Ankara, while others went to the refugee camps dotting Syria’s border. The camps’ dire conditions and bleak future is seen as an incentive along with many other factors for many to attempt to cross the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean to European shores. This piece, however, is not just about statistics; it is about the people behind these numbers.
The more advanced we get does not necessarily mean we have become more compassionate. Technology has achieved so much, yet it has also contributed to the apathy that plagues our global consciousness. The world occasionally stops and helps when natural disaster strikes, but sadly the attention is generally short lived. Many excuse their lack of global outreach by pointing to the problems that exist in their own country, but are we not obliged to raise our voice as an able and powerful nation?
I want to live in a world where we, as global citizens, allow ourselves to feel as much as we think. Our allotted lives are all circumstantial; anyone one of us could have been living in a war torn country. The only difference between me and a refugee is how the dice was rolled: I ended up here and they ended up there. To accept reality and to accept the countless problems the world has does not mean to accept the status quo, and as global citizens, we need to always remember that our nations are all one bad decision away from being in need ourselves.
Mark Twain said, “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” Maybe he was right, but if the world does not owe those most desperate and vulnerable a living, then who does? The right to live a life of dignity is one that has been written in various esteemed legal documents like that of the United Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, why do we see a blatant disregard of the humanity of refugees?
In all honesty, this editorial started out as a means of venting, not in anger but rather in bewilderment. Sometimes when you stop and look around you realize how lucky you are and with that you should also realize how unlucky some people are. The first step is recognizing the level of privilege we have in the United States and ways to directly help include sponsoring a child through Save the Children and donating to various UN agencies whose mission is to provide aid to the displaced: the World Food program, UNICEF and UNHCR.