Like many, many people around the world, I was horrified and heartbroken by the photo of Alan Kurdi that surfaced a couple of weeks ago. It was a hard photo to look at. It wasn’t that it was gruesome or grotesque, it was that it was so … sad. The lifeless body of a little boy. He could have been my little boy. I think that’s why there was such a resounding global response to that photo, that made the Syrian refugee crisis more real to everyone. The tragedy has a face now, and a tiny little broken body. Harder to ignore and set aside. I wouldn’t be surprised if that photo becomes one of those influential images that spurs a generation.
As disturbing as I found that photo, by far more disturbing to me are these racist posts that keep on popping up on my social media feeds. It’s ghastly, and it is harmful. When people post things that make the refugees out to be terrorists, rapists, opportunists or other terrible things, it has the possibility to cause harm on a global scale. Keep in mind these are people who have lost literally everything in their life, and often loved ones as well. They felt they had no other choice but to risk their lives to leave their home, because that was in fact better than the alternative. I can’t imagine being in that position. I don’t know how I would deal with it, how I would protect my children, how I would feed them, how I would survive.
It’s sickening that there’s a backlash, that these people who are victims of war are being made out to be monsters. What that is is hate mongering and racism in its most destructive form. The reality is that refugees are just people, trying to survive and keep their families safe. If they are denied the ability to do that, there is a very real possibility that by closing doors in their faces, by ensuring that we do not help them for whatever reasons we make up to make ourselves feel better about it, it could become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You worry about people with a different value system from you? Why not show them through a generous spirit what values you want to see in the world? People respond to that and would be much more inclined to share in that value system. By being closed minded and hateful, you are likely to propagate that in the world as well. There is a potential lost generation out there, forced to live out their lives in refugee camps, knowing that they are wanted by no one, who could be tempted into radical behaviour. It wouldn’t be the first time, and it is the type of response found in any people made to suffer so.
So here’s our chance to change history. By choosing not to post racist, ignorant material, to not spread hate, but rather do what you can to support those in need. React in openness and love, and that will be shared by the world.
I have a genuinely amazing brother- and sister-in-law, who together with two other couples are going in to sponsor a Syrian family coming over to Canada. Their little baby isn’t even a month old yet, and yet they are choosing to take on this responsibility because they felt they had to do all they could to help. Their generosity of spirit is extremely moving to me, and I’m proud to know people who are willing to go out of their way to do good.
As for us? Well, we’re Switzerland. I’m not sure what I expected as a response from the Swiss as we are are only beginning to gain an understanding of the culture here. But it appears that although the Swiss aren’t keen to let many migrants into their country, they are throwing money at the problem. We followed suit. We can’t sponsor a family here, but we can donate money to help support those who are. Here is the link where you can donate to support my in-laws in their helping one family to escape the treachery in Syria, if you are able: Help a Syrian Family Start a New Life in Canada.