In the excitement and celebration of Father’s Day, I missed the fact that June 20th was celebrated internationally as World Refugee day – a day to recognize the struggles of and stand in solidarity with refugees across the world. I may now be a day late and a dollar short but I thought it would be better late than never to write a brief post about refugees and what you and I could do to help.
The United Nations defines a refugee as: “persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.” At this very moment, there are over 24.8 million refugees throughout the world, and over half of them are children under the age of 18. Every minute, 20 people across the world are forced to become refugees or make the difficult decision to pack up whatever belongings they can and search for a better life due to insurmountable challenges and dangers at home. At one point or other, 1 in 95 people on earth has been a refugee at some point. If you are one of the 94 lucky enough to have never been in such a position, I urge you to take a moment and give thanks to the safety and security you enjoy that has allowed you to escape this fate. Just imagine how terrifying it must be that your home, the place you were born and love, is being bombed, invaded, looted, and more to the point that you cannot even continue existing there. Instead you must set out, often on foot, into strange lands where you will likely not be welcomed and will certainly faced innumerable hardships and challenging conditions.
This post isn’t about discussing root causes of issues that create refugees, or about the treatment refugees receive by their new homes. I didn’t think that would be productive and when discussing such an excessive issue of human rights, it is more important to focus on solutions and empathy rather than on blame. War is the main contributor to people becoming refugees, with the 5 countries with the highest number of fleeing refugees being Myanmar, South Sudan, Venezuela, Syria, and Afghanistan, each of which has been dealing with prolonged periods of strife and war. Rather than seek to blame a government, faction, ideal, or chastise people for the ill treatment of refugees I would simply ask that those of you lucky enough to not be refugees give gratitude for what you have and exercise compassion for those struggling with this issue. If you meet a refugee, give them food, water, clothing, or even just a smile – the most basic and simple of positive human interactions.
My hope for this post is that those of you read it will be more mindful of the various refugee crises going on across the world. I know it is easy to carry on in your day to day without sparing much thought for the concerns of issues. I do this often myself, constantly getting swept up in my own affairs, interests, and issues. Nothing is wrong with this, at the end of the day the person we are most responsible for is ourselves and our dependents. Get your own house in order by all means. But if you can spare a thought, some time, money, resources, or effort, I would encourage you to look into whether or not you can do something to help others. This doesn’t have to be exclusively refugees, despite the theme of this post. Helping anyone in any fashion whether it be providing food, shelter, water, safety, money, time, or just a good thought – no act of kindness and compassion is too small. Remember, “nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he thought he could only do a little.”
If you are interested in learning more about the refugee crisis or in donating to a charitable cause to help aid those in need, please check out the UN High Commission for Refugees page here