Originally published as a column in NewsKamloops on Friday, November 20th, 2015.
Few are those who have not heard about the latest terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS in Beirut and Paris. At the same time, many news outlets have updates on the refugee situation. It is not to be solved any time soon, and according to some political analysts, we have seen nothing yet. The crisis is not about to end anytime soon, nor will the deluge of refugee slow down.
In the wake of the Paris attack that shook the western world to the core, there are many questions that remain unanswered. Why would anyone do that and what do they hope to achieve? How are we ever to stop the deadly machine that creates countless ripples of violence and harm, directly and indirectly?
It is unfortunate that one of the consequences of such attacks is the increased resentment Muslims experience from people who are overtaken by hatred. Just like worry does not solve anything in case of a stressful situation, hatred will solve nothing but only breed more hatred.
Yes, we are steeped in a moral dilemma that may not have a solution, but hopefully there are steps to mitigate some of it as we move along.
Whatever your opinion is about Syrian refugees, one thing is clear: resenting Muslim people, the ones here or there or the ones in between countries, will do nothing to shed light onto the crisis we’re in.
As our children hear on the news about terrorist attacks and then they hear contradicting opinions about whether refugees should be accepted by countries like ours, truth is they have little to learn from news outlets alone or from opinions flying this way or that.
As with so many (all) issues of our troubled world, education is key and it should start with our youngest ones. Instead of being politically correct at all times while at the same times being plagued by contradictory feelings, we should have them learn and we can learn with them, that in many parts of the world people turn to violence to get the message through and they are, in most if not all cases, opposing the very thing that would otherwise enlighten them and see different solutions.
Playing into the hands of groups like ISIS and allowing them to make us resent other Muslims will only isolate people and communities and thus create in the end more breeding ground for more hatred-based reactions to appear. It’s a vicious circle of the worst kind.
The US Congress just passed a bill that will have every Syrian refugee’s immigration documents (those who make it to that stage) personally signed by the heads of the US intelligence and security agencies in order to prevent possible terrorists from entering the country.
But, as New York Times columnist Nickolas Kristof points out, it is worth taking into consideration that a terrorist might not come as a humble refugee but, say, a graduate student. The issue is already a thousand times bigger than a few seconds ago, isn’t it?
In a way, that is perhaps what an organization like ISIS aims to create: alienation at all levels, fearmongering and hatred between people, which in turn provides some of the most fertile grounds for more violence and more conflict.
Then again, albeit the Syrian conflict is the most present on the news because of its gravity and the ever-growing waves of concern relating the long-reaching arms of terrorism, there are other serious crises happening around the world that people are less, if at all, aware of.
A humanitarian crisis of big proportions is unfolding as we speak in Nepal, where the survivors of the earthquake in April are not only undernourished and in great need of medical supplies, but the country’s border with India has been under a severe blockade for the last couple of months, which greatly aggravated the many troubling issues that Nepalese people had to face after almost 9,000 of them died and almost 2 million lost their homes.
And there’s more. In 2014, according to UN High Commission for Refugees, there were 60 million refugees and internally displaced people around the globe, the highest number since the WWII. Almost half of them are children. To all of us who have the privilege to tuck our children in bed every night, that is unthinkable.
Placing the Syrian refugee issue in the context of global refugees and displaced people who find themselves at the present moment in great need of help may just add compassion to their plea, which in turn may reduce the resentment and stigma associated with various ethnic groups.
Time will tell and though desperately needed, an answer is far from reach. This is not a black and white issue. But if we judge a whole nation or religious group based on a few (or more, unfortunately) extremists, we are only making more room for negative outcomes and potentially pushing more people to seek acceptance on the wrong side of being human.
Because truth is, there are two sides in each of us. A compassionate approach to life is nothing but a matter of choice, despite the occasional temptation to give in and join the ranks of those who fear and resent.