One Million Refugees

Ever since the U.N. released its assessment of the situation, I have been haunted by the thought that one million Syrian children are now refugees. One million! We can either view that as a dismal statistic (which it is) or translate it into a million individual lives, a million different faces.

I have never been a refugee myself, but I have known a few people who, for one reason or another, have had to flee their country of origin or, worse still, been forced out of their homeland. It has made me realise that one can only be a citizen of the world if one is sure that one belongs to one particular part of it. We should be very concerned for the children of Syria. Even if all their material needs are met (which I am rather doubtful about), their need for that sense of belonging, for peace and security, for all that makes them Syrian rather than anything else, is much more difficult of attainment. No doubt another tragedy will soon grip the headlines and they will be forgotten by all but a relative few. Who now thinks of ‘displaced persons’ the world over who have spent ten, twenty, even more years in refugee camps? I think we should ask ourselves what it does to someone’s soul to be a refugee. How many of the West’s current fears, for example, are traceable to our ignoring or underestimating the effect of a refugee existence on the expansion of radical Islam?

The situation in Syria, and the situation of refugees from Syria, concerns us all. What we do about it is another matter. The suspicion that chemical warfare is now being used may prompt some nations to military intervention. Let us pray for wisdom and prudence and in the meantime do what we can to help those who are suffering. If that seems to you pathetically weak and inadequate, could it be because we have missed opportunities in the past? If so, let us resolve to try not to miss them in the future.


4 thoughts on “One Million Refugees”

  1. The scale of these numbers is actually almost beyond the imagination. The suffering, anxiety, uncertainty and fear and insecurity for their future must be overwhelming. And for each child there is a parent and another horror story of the evils of war and our inhumanity to each other.

    There is little doubt that governments and aid agencies are struggling to support these people, but their efforts will always be insufficient and will never replace the homes, jobs, communities that have been destroyed and people displaced – will they ever be able to go back? The example of the Palestinian refugee’s forced from their homeland in 1948 and still refugees three generations later is one that must hope and pray isn’t shared by these poor people.

    We need to take a serious look at how we arm people and how the use of the weapons of destruction are being used to prosecute wars of repression or the threaten the security of other nations. There needs to be a total ban on international arms sales for a start and an enforced decommissioning of those already in the hands of repressive regimes.

    A huge humanitarian effort is called for world wide to help all refugee’s return to their homelands in peace, safety and security, putting our own selfish interests aside and working for the benefit of all peoples.

  2. Sadly, some governments use refugees and refugee camps as political tools. Palestine is a classic example. Outside countries ensure that there is no resolution to the problems there. Aggression and war have been a way of life in the Mid-east for many centuries. I am not confident that there will be any early resolution to the situation. Meanwhile, people suffer.

  3. Those of us lucky enough to know who we are and where we belong can only try to imagine what the lack of a sense of belonging can do to a person – without getting anywhere near to really understanding.

  4. ” Belief in utopia has been able to replace the hope in eternal life … Because it concerns something artificial, this future world is always conceivable: always as close as Tantalus’ fruit and always just as far away. We should finally bid farewell to the notion of working to build the ideal society of the future as being a myth and should instead work with total commitment to strengthen those factors which hold evil at bay in the present and that can therefore offer some guarantee for the immediate future.” (from God is Near Us, by J Ratzinger)

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