No more than a month ago the world became outraged that a lion named Cecil was killed. Cecil was a Southwest African lion in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was 13. A flood of hate mail then followed, inundating the American dentist who paid to hunt this animal. These are the facts.
Two days ago a picture of a toddler, dead on a beach in Turkey, circulated around the world’s media. His name but a whisper on the tips of tongues that argue about whose problem this really is. He died, along with his mother and siblings in the sea, after a smuggler gave them fake life jackets for their flea of a home they could no longer endure.
We lack the vision to truly see the plight of these human beings, these people who have had to leave their homes for fear of their lives. Leaving everything they have and know, for the hope and promise of something better, the world seems fixated on whose fault it is this plight exists – the truth is it exists. In a twist of fate the country whose arms are held wide open, if only these refugees could make it there, is Germany. Lessons from the past, thoughts of the future, and compassion guiding them through this human crisis.
In North America it’s easy to turn a blind eye. We are separated by vast oceans from this human tragedy, its just another day in the news. The pictures circulate in the news, the opinion columnists opine about various sides of the situation, and we lament how awful it is, between laments over oil prices and job losses. Armchair critics talk about how those wealthy countries closer to the problem, like Saudi Arabia, should deal with the issue and take the refugees. Others argue that these people just want to get to Europe for economic reasons, having landed in Greece and Turkey and choosing to continue west.
Here’s what I know. When Cecil the Lion was killed my Facebook feed was filled with pictures of him, oaths to avenge the travesty that was his death, promises to take action, boycott that dentist. However, when 200 girls were abducted in Nigeria over a year ago, when hundreds of people have died in the sea trying to find a new home, and when those who have made it as far as Hungary are then met with derision and contempt, I wonder where our soap boxes, memes, and pedestals have gone.
Is it easier to show compassion for an animal than another human? Is it closer to home because Cecil’s killer was American? Its possible the problem is too overwhelming, its easier to move beyond it than deal with it. We have become frozen in our denial – and maybe that’s the first step, admitting that a problem exists. What concerns me is not only that this issue exists (and has in many forms over the ages), its the contempt from those living in the comfort of a developed nation for those who have left the idea of comfort for the hope of safety. I don’t pretend to know the solution to this situation. I don’t pretend to understand the strain and pressure that these European countries are facing. What I do know is that maybe if we put our collective minds to work we could find a solution. Open and direct communication is necessary. Compassion for other humans is necessary. And a reminder that regardless of borders, languages, jobs, and religion, we are all one people. Instead of being our own undoing, we should be coming together to find a solution. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and work together to find a solution to this ongoing human crisis. This is our time to step up.
If you are interested here are some of the agencies working to step up (taken from the Globe and Mail):
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has a fund dedicated to refugees of the Syrian crisis right now. The agency provides health care, vaccinations, shelter and wells.
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station is at the front lines of the crisis. The agency is made up of humanitarians and marine officers, and tries to save migrants in distress in the Mediterranean. International donations can be made in U.S dollars by PayPal or bitcoin.
Migration Aid is providing short-term assistance to refugees in Hungary, including food and water, as well as hygiene items. Though the group can’t accept donations directly, it has an agreement with a pharmacy in Budapest that directly supports its work.
World Vision has a fund dedicated to Syrian refugees. The money goes toward basic needs such as food, diapers for babies and “psychosocial support.”
The Canadian Red Cross has set up a Syria Crisis Fund.
Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is providing humanitarian care along the routes the migrants take.
CARE Canada has reached more than one million people affected by the crisis in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and inside Syria.
UNICEF is working to help Syrian families in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Macedonia.