Brother, not other

18 Jun 2015   |   Blog   |   Syria   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  World Refugee Day, Syrian refugees, middle east, Refugees   |   No comments

By Lilian Chan, Online Editor at Caritas Australia

World Refugee Day, 20 June, offers us a chance to reflect on the plight of so many around the world. I think of the millions of refugees in the Middle East who have fled their home country.

And every time I think of this, I think of my niece. My niece was born in 2011, the same year the conflict in Syria began. In her 4 years, my niece has already learned so much and has grown so much as a person.

It makes me sad to know that she has never lived in a world where there was some kind of peace in Syria. And it breaks my heart that there are many Syrian kids who are just like her, but they have had to grow up in refugee camps or temporary shelter, in situations of danger and insecurity.

In our world today, it is estimated that there are more than 15 million refugees and 45 million people who have been forcibly displaced. With such sheer numbers of people, it is sometimes easy to reduce them to a faceless mass, viewed with indifference.

But it shouldn’t be so. We need to remind ourselves that instead of seeing them as the ‘other’ with an attitude of distrust or apathy; we recognise each and every refugee as our neighbour, as our brother and sister.

These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families… How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity."
Pope Francis, Homily during visit to Lampedusa, 2013

It is about welcoming people who have left their home "with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions." (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2015)

Today on World Refugee Day, may we break out of our indifference, open our hearts to seeing their desire for a life of safety and dignity, and respond with compassion.

Grandma and granddaughter

Their own stories

With over 4 million Syrians who have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries, we sometimes forget they each have their own story - their own fears and desires.

Here are just some of the people Caritas has met over the 4 years:

Abir and her child

Some families have been away from their home for almost four years now. Abir and Tony fled to Syria in September 2011 when their home town of Qusair came under heavy bombardment. They have since welcomed into their family triplets, who were born 10 weeks premature. Read more »

Kids playing

Many refugees resisted leaving their home country for as long as they possibly could. Eman is a young mother who only recently arrived in Lebanon. “At the start of the war my husband disappeared, so I didn’t want to leave because I had the idea that he would come back. But in February my house was bombed and destroyed so I decided to come here.” Read more »

Syrian refugee and her children

Zarfeh is a wife and mother who, along with her eight children, fled to Jordan. “We had to get the children out because it had become too dangerous… I brought nothing of value, except my children. There is nothing more precious than that.” Read more »

Syrian refugee in Jordan

“When you first arrive, you are in complete shock. You are mentally and physically tired from the journey. You are in a weird environment where everyone is a stranger.” - Mohammad, a Syrian refugee who sought safety in Jordan. Read more »

Syrian refugee mother

“Only the welfare of my child gives me the strength to carry on… He has had a very tough life, a life with no dignity. My only dream is that the boy will return one day to Syria. Nobody should have to grow up outside their own country.”Rosan, a Syrian refugee mother who lives with her son in a tiny room in Amman. Read more »

Syrian refugee grandparents and grandchildren

Elderly people are often the forgotten people in these refugee situations. Fatima is an older Syrian woman who fled to Lebanon to seek refuge. “In Syria, I was a grandmother and I helped my family. Here, the life is so difficult, things are so expensive, and I am just another worry for my family.”

Although elderly people often have needs that are different to other refugees, they are able to contribute so much to their communities in these times of chaos and turmoil. Read more »

Syrian refugee children

Not only have children experienced an upheaval of their lives, many have also had to deal with the loss of parents and other close family members. Gharam and her brother lost their mother in the crisis. “It’s very difficult for us. I can’t live without my mum. I need her. We cry all day. My brother is too upset to sleep after all he has seen.” Read more »

Caritas is providing psychosocial support to help children through the trauma they have experienced. Read more »

Learn more about the Middle East Crisis Appeal

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