Unfortunately, genocides and massive fleeing isn’t new.
During World War I, the Germans invaded Belgium. Thousands of cities, buildings, homes, and lives were destroyed. While more than 200,000 have fled Syria, one million fled Belgium in 1918. More than 250,000 came to Britain (Britain was a superb example of welcome).
Armenia was equally devastated. One million Armenians were killed: Half of their population. It was what we know today as the first genocide. Just think if half of your country, your population, your people, your heritage was obliterated.
“I’ve Never Heard Of That” Crisis __
Then there are refugee crises which we just don’t hear of. Columbia has had four million leaving their homes since the 1960s…that’s 10% of their population. Yet it’s not reported as a crisis because people can’t or aren’t leaving the country.
The Ongoing Refugee Crisis
We seem to forget ongoing refugee status countries. In Iraq, more than 4.7 million have left their homes since the 1980s. Two million have exited. They’ve gone to Jordan and Lebanon, which brings to me the next point.
The Crisis Will Quadruple: Twenty Million Need Help
While many people may be ‘getting tired” of hearing about Syria, we are not even close to nearing the end.
More than 4.7 million Syrian refugees have fled. About a quarter are headed or heading to Europe. That leaves 75% of Syrians still in need of a new home.
A daunting, new, rushed move to a new land, new culture, with possible disrespect for their culture, fear of their religion and no work permit.
Potential, temporary food supplies for their families – if they are lucky.
Forget about school for their kids.
For those who have might have the option, one Syrian parent who had migrated to another country spoke of her experience: “I have to ‘un-brainwash’ my ten-year-old every night. What they say in school about history and culture isn’t correct. I don’t like the way he is being taught to think.” (paraphrase)
And sometimes, dirty looks, fear or anger from the local town. “These people aren’t welcome, we don’t know their religion, they are taking my job, and there just isn’t enough [employment].”
This is the new “home” they are forced to seek. Three million Syrian refugees need it.
Yet 14 million Syrians in-country need safety, food, shelter, schooling and basic survival. That’s nearly 20 million — not 4 million, who need help. The crisis is quadruple.
So expect the refugees to keep coming.
Within four months: we added another 800,000 refugees….
We are Ignoring the True Leaders
We should be grateful for Germany’s efforts accepting 500,000 refugees. It is a grand, noble and right commitment. Yet why are we ignoring the countries who accept refugees ongoing, through no choice of their own?
Nearly two million refugees are in Turkey, a population of 75 million. That means three percent of their population will become Syrian.
More than 1.1 million are in Lebanon, a population of 5 million. Twenty-five percent of their population will become Syrian.
More than 800,000 have fled to Jordan, a population of 6.5 million. Twelve percent of their population will become Syrian.
In Egypt, there are 118,512 Syrian refugees.
In Iraq, there are 245,543 Syrian refugees.
So while Germany is accepting 500,000, their population is over 80 million. It’s less than one percent of their people.
Countries such as Jordan and Lebanon are the true stars. They accepted refugees from the start. They are completely overwhelmed. Who has time for policy and political announcements?
They don’t have a choice. Refugees are streaming across the borders, programs or no programs. Food or no food, health care or no health care, school or no school. The refugees are radically changing a government’s policy and allocation of funds. It revolutionizes a country’s culture, heritage and way of doing things. Neither Jordan nor Lebanon have a chance to plan or prepare. They have to accept this new normal, and now.
And yet, we need to be grateful. Yes, we need to be grateful for there was a time when no borders were open.
If we look back to 1938, it was at the cusp of World War II. The Germans were aggressively advancing, invading country after country. They had just taken over Austria. Jews were massively exiting everywhere.
A conference was held in France on what to do. Country leaders were not only concerned about their freedom, but also about their ability to take in the Jewish refugees. Thirty-two country delegates were there.
Yad Vashem describes the situation:
During the conference, it became painfully obvious that no country was willing to volunteer anything. The British delegate claimed that Britain was already fully populated and suffering from unemployment, so it could take in no refugees. His only offer consisted of British territories in East Africa, which could take in small numbers of refugees. The French delegate declared that France had reached “the extreme point of saturation as regards admission of refugees.” Myron C. Taylor, the American delegate, allowed that the United States would make the previously unfilled quota for Germans and Austrians available to these new refugees. Other countries claimed the Depression as their excuse for not accepting refugees. Only the Dominican Republic, a tiny country in the West Indies, volunteered to take in refugees—in exchange for huge amounts of money.
The Evian Conference, France
Adopt Lebanon’s Courage
Thankfully, we aren’t facing such a draconian 1938. More countries are responding. Services are being set up. Some ongoing life integration programs are germinating.
So if Lebanon can accept that a quarter of their population are Syrians, then we can be courageous, too. While I am not Catholic, I agree with Pope Francis:
“Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family.”
Jordan and Lebanon are the true shining stars.
Read my next article on what Jordan and Lebanon are doing to cope with the crisis, and embrace their new country.