It’s all about compassion. As I write this, the news media is full of information about the “refugee crisis” or “migrant crisis”. Hot spots are Calais in France, Southern Italy and Libya, Budapest in Hungary, and the island of Cos in Greece and Turkey. Who cannot be moved by the photograph of a young boy’s body, washed up on the beach. Politicians can rationalise and talk about the underlying causes but I sense a change in ordinary people’s attitudes as they feel sympathy, empathy and compassion towards people they see as fellow human beings.
Migrants, Refugees or just people
What do we call those who are fleeing war, violence, persecution (and extreme poverty which kills just as effectively). They are called migrants, refugees, asylum seekers or “economic migrants”, but they are simply people fleeing from physical or economic violence and seeking a better life for their families. The trouble is the word “migrant” has connotations which makes the word insulting, and degrading. I would prefer to use the term “refugee” – one fleeing violence and seeking a new life in another country – but better still is to refer to them as people, just like you and me.
The prime minister of the U.K. says that we must solve the underlying causes – war or persecution. This is all very well but this needs a ten, twenty, hundred or thousand-year programme and we in the U.K. are partly responsible for some of these problems anyway (in Iraq and Libya). We pour resources into refugee camps and keep the problem out of the way in some remote location. But compassion means recognising that people want a life for their families and not just survival in a camp. It means welcoming them in to our country where they may find work and fulfilment and where they may flourish.
World War Three – 201? to 20??
I maybe sticking my neck out here but historians may look back upon this period as the start of world war three. A war not based on patriotism to one’s country but a war based on extreme ideas, on race and on religion. A war where it is not easy to recognise one’s adversaries, not country against country, and not army against army. The weapons used are not strategic, but guns, home-made bombs, fear and violence. A war where the victims are almost entirely civilians – men, women and children. Maybe, “We haven’t seen anything yet“.
We live in a global village. News, pictures and ideas flash round the world at the speed of light. And yet we live in a world of gross inequality between the rich and poor living in the same country. Richer countries are fighting to maintain their wealth, privileges and standards in a world which is being made very aware of the privileges that they don’t share. Is it any wonder that people, just like you and me, want a better life. Who are we to deny them the opportunities?
A call to British politicians
- Wake up and realise that most people are compassionate and do not share a “Little Englander” view. You may have had a shock that so many do not consider themselves European citizens, but most of us cherish our inheritance as human beings and see other people in the same light – whether they come from Syria, Eritrea or other impoverished parts of the world.
- Welcome refugees from war-torn regions such as Syria, by directly inviting families from the refugee camps by the tens of thousands (or more) to share in our prosperity. (This will short-circuit the criminal people smugglers who exploit the misery of people.
- Beware of quotas. We are not talking about some negotiating with other countries about numbers. Compassion has no limits. (As I write this David Cameron has announced that the U.K. is to accept “thousands” of Syrians from refugee camps.)
- Be an example to the world. There are 4 million refugees in countries surround Syria and millions more displaced within Syria. Outdo Germany and Sweden in generosity and compassion and welcome refugees by the tens or even hundreds of thousands.
- Do not pander to the racist minority who by careful phrasing, nether the less consider others as sub-human.
- Encourage a culture of compassion by word and by example.
- Let us be proud of our “Britishness” by an amazing national response to this situation as we welcome refugees into our midst.