In the midst of the current worldwide economic crisis, it's hard to find "growth industries". Sadly, a prosperous, and expanding, sector is the creation of refugees. Beside the on-going tragedy that is Darfur, and the decades-long Palestinian dispersion [to name just two of too, too many], we can add the blossoming crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the war-related misery in Iraq [and make no mistake: while the roots of this ethnic-based conflict existed before the United States, never mind our involvement in the Middle East, we are also responsible for the pain that our recent actions have caused].
A few facts, courtesy of the United Nations:
- about 50 million people worldwide are believed to be victims of forced displacement;
- nearly two-thirds of the world's refugees come from nations in the Middle East or Africa;
-the current understanding of the term "refugee" includes persons who are displaced by armed conflict, but who remain within the borders of their country of origin.
Here's a little exercise [Warning: this will probably make you feel at least a little anxious. It should]: Imagine it's the middle of the night in your quiet neighborhood. Suddenly an explosion rocks your safe, secure home. Startled, half-awake, you cautiously peer out your bedroom window. Two doors down, a house is demolished. It's surrounded by a group of screaming men, many of them carrying guns. You hear thuds on your door. You won't open it, of course, but that doesn't matter. A crash informs you that it's been smashed in! The mob, or army, or you don't know what rushes in! If God, or Allah, or whomever you pray to, is kind, the invaders will simply force you out into the street. If your god is very kind, the invaders may even allow you to gather what you can carry before you leave. But if your god is not with you, or if you worship the wrong god, you are truly and horribly on your own. Just ask the tens of thousands murdered by invading forces, or the thousands of women raped and forced into sexual service by a marauding army. Or ask the millions left with no food and water, forced to wander, searching for a place of safety, a place with food and water, a place of rest. Welcome to the world of the refugee...
Not a hopeful picture, is it? We call ourselves civilized. But if we ignore the nightmare of the world's refugees, we have no business aspiring to any higher level of being. "But what can I do?", you ask. First of all, be aware! Check your news sources for information. Google the word "refugee" [as of the moment this is written, there are more than two million entries; something there should be informative]. Make sure your children are informed, whether or not their schools are involved in educating them about the crisis [here is a site sponsored by the UN that gives a good overview of the issues]. If such a response is appropriate for you, pray. Contact your political leaders [how hard is it to send them an e-mail?], letting them know your concerns. Discuss the refugee problem with friends and family. Read more blogs on this topic [it is a Bloggers Unite issue on Monday, November 10th; more than a few of your favorite sites will probably be addressing it]. Above all, use your humanity! Remember our little exercise. Someday, it could be you,