I’ve been dealing with this roller coaster of emotions since I began this trip. I walked into the first refugee camp I had spent time in, the Calais Jungle, and I was blown away. By the kindness and the agency of the people I was with.
These are not helpless, they have no other option. If there was any one message I could get across to the world about the refugee crisis it would be this – these people have agency. They are not helpless, in fact they are like us. They are in camps because they have no other option.
We say that if we were around during the time of slavery, we would do something to fight it. I think that’s BS. There are human rights violations that are occurring today that we are doing nothing to stop. You wouldn’t be one of the people who would fight injustice then if you don’t do it now.
I did not feel this way before I saw these camps and met these people. I saw the way they were portrayed by the media. Cold, wet, and dying on boats trying to cross the sea. Or hot, violent, and temperamental. As terrorists or as weaklings. I didn’t feel real pain when I would read the numbers I saw on the NY Times. I thought, “That’s sad, but they are far away - their pain and their struggle doesn’t affect me.”
Today, I spent time in another camp near Athens, Greece. There were about 500 people in the camp and we interviewed a few volunteers that worked in the camp‘s school. One of the volunteers told us about Ahmed (*name changed for security purposes). Ahmed was stabbed in the head while protecting his five-year-old son from being beheaded. He was unsuccessful, his son was killed, and now he is dealing with his pain in a place that is made to remind you of what you have lost.
Take a minute to think about the humanity. And then take a minute to think about what your role in it is.