Sudan, The Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Myanmar are just a few the dozens of countries that the world’s refugees identify as their homeland. Displaced by war, famine, and persecution, these people have fled hundreds of miles searching for some semblance of stability. Staying in their homelands means certain death. Leaving presents risk and uncertainty. They hope to be welcomed wherever they wind up. More importantly, they hope to survive. In most cases, a tent city with squalid conditions is the only place that affords them security. At least there aren’t bombs going off. At least blood thirsty rebels aren’t storming through the camps. At least the UN distributes rice to stave off hunger. This is the plight of the refugee.
In the last several weeks, the national narrative around refugees has missed this important context. President Trump has touted risks of terrorism as grounds to shut off travel from certain countries. Many of those countries have produced scores of refugees. The wealthy United States would normal provide adequate safe haven for many of them, but instead animosity dominates the discourse. On the other hand, some Americans have spoken up in criticism of the president’s sentiments. However, many have done so on the basis of political allegiance rather than a concern for refugees. After all, countries like Syria and Sudan have been producing refugees long before Donald Trump became president. Like I said, animosity dominates the discourse.
I think we need to move our concerns to upstream matters. Do we care that the home countries of these refugees are war-torn? Do we blink twice about famines and environmental changes? Do we really recognize the persecution that happens to these people? Perhaps, if we did, a genuine concern for refugees would grow. Maybe that concern would lead us to action. Then, instead of debating the actions of the president and the risks of terrorism, we would concentrate on helping the marginalized and struggling.