World Refugee Day 2017

Individuals and Choices

Today is the 17th internationally recognized World Refugee Day, and the 7th since the Syrian refugee crisis began. The UN estimates that roughly 6 million refugees have fled Syria since the start of the civil war in March 2011, on top of another 6 million people internally displaced people within Syria.

Overall, there are more than 65 million forcibly displaced persons around the world according to figures released by the UN late last year. Conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Americas have raged on while much recent media attention has been paid to the situation in Syria, meaning that more human beings are currently displaced from their homes than during any other time since World War II.

The numbers can be staggering and hard to wrap your head around. Imagining stadiums full of people doesn’t do justice to the scale of the current crisis. 65 million individuals have had their sense of normalcy destroyed by violence and been forced to leave most of their lives behind in order to simply keep living.

This problem may be more severe than at any point in recent history, but it is important to remember that this is not unique to the 20 th and 21 st centuries. Like other sociopolitical ills- racism, slavery, poverty-refugees seem to be an intractable element of human civilization.

As an individual reading this it is natural and appropriate to agonize over what can be done to help the 65 million. We are confronted with this every day, asked to give our time, work, conscience and money to help combat any number of problems, both global and local. Take a step back and consider the root causes of any of these problems and the effects can be paralyzing. How can we ever allocate enough financial resources and achieve the political agreement necessary to solve issues such as war or poverty?

For starters, if you care about one of these issues, you will do what you can, whatever that means for your life. People, other humans, are responsible for problems such as violence and poverty and their consequences. The origins of these problems are not supernatural.

If people can wreak such problems unto themselves then we believe people have the capacity to cooperate and find creative, just solutions. Smart, motivated people have been attempting to do so for generations.

Solving a problem such as the international refugee crisis, which cuts to the core of how countries treat both their own citizens and those beyond their borders, will by nature be a long, slow grind.

We urge you to look for opportunities in your own life to connect with those in need, offer compassion and friendship, and gain a deeper understanding of what happens when life is upended due to forces beyond your control.

For us, this means building a sense of community and hope through sports and music participation.

There are an infinite number of ways to be a part of the solution.

If nothing else, we urge you to keep in mind the words of the poet Philip Larkin, “we should be careful, of each other, we should be kind, while there is still time.”