Earlier I wrote about the famine in the Horn of Africa and the needless suffering of innocent people, especially in Somalia. Whether you continued to follow the story or not, the situation has not improved. People are still dying, parents are watching their children starve to death, children are watching their mothers raped in front of their eyes; the earth continues to spin. Life goes on. I would think it goes without saying life as a refugee, particularly in a refugee camp, is not to be wished upon anyone. The atrocities and tragedies described during the global appeal for Somalia were shocking to many; sadly, they are the harsh reality in most refugee camps, especially those that are overcrowded and unable to support the vast number of people who arrive hoping to flee an even worse situation. Most of the time, these people go unnoticed by the rest of the world as others are far more concerned with other issues – the economy, the Palestinian bid for statehood, the tumultuous situations in Libya and Syria, to name a few. For the individual, problems of direct and personal importance take priority over the suffering of others – after all, how can one help refugees a world away when there is so much at home to fix? Is that not the job of some politician or bureaucrat somewhere? Yes, it most likely is someone else’s job to fix the problems faced by refugees inside and outside of camps, but does that exempt one from caring? If you were faced with similar circumstances, how would you feel knowing the rest of the world had that same idea? What if it was you or your family there? Think about it.
When it comes time for your family’s evening meal, imagine being there with your children and having no food for them today. Tonight they must go to sleep with empty stomachs. There is no water to quench their thirst, either; they must go without. Instead of sleeping on a nice bed or in a sturdy crib like you have at home, your children will have to spend the night on the ground, in squalor, with little or no protection. Surrounding them are thousands of people living in the same conditions as you, suffering from the same lack of care. No power means no nightlight, no glass of water or bedtime story, certainly no stuffed animal or any other bedtime necessity. As your hungry children try to sleep in these conditions, you cannot honestly reassure them it will be better tomorrow – the truth is this is your new home, and although it is somewhat better than the one you left, this is reality. When your children wake again, there will be no food to give them, no water, no comfort or reassurance. Hopefully today no one will be attacked or raped; hopefully all of you will survive the day.
Imagine your life without your children – they once existed, but now they are dead. You loved them dearly, there is no denying that, but circumstances were terrible and some could not survive – you did everything you could but you just did not have enough food or water or shelter for them. Even now, your own survival is in question and it is quite possible you will not see tomorrow either.
Tonight when you go to tuck them in, stop. Turn around, leave them there. Do not say good night to them, do not turn on the nightlight or read a story; simply ignore them. When they start crying, continue to ignore them. Listen to their pleas, but do nothing. Know that they are suffering and hurting – but do nothing. Go ahead, try to ignore it or drown out the sounds. That will not make them go away, though, and you know it.
How long could you do that? Does it bother you to know they are there and you are doing nothing to help them? Why, because they are children and they need to be cared for by those who can? Or is it because they are your children, and you can hear them crying? Do you think I should care that they are suffering? They are not my children; what does it matter to me? Your children could die right now, screaming in terrible agony, and my life would carry on without even noticing. Tell me, why should I care at all, even if the circumstances leading to their demise was preventable? My life is not affected by them and I have plenty of other problems of my own. Yes, it is a terrible tragedy, never should have been allowed to happen, you will never be the same, la dee dah, life goes on – for everyone else, that is. Your life is ruined, but no one else in the world cares. It could have been avoided quite easily, but no one did anything. Sorry, but they have their own problems to deal with like making sure their children go the better school or buying more luxury goods they could easily live without.
After all, it is far more important to have a fancy new car with all the options than it is to spare $5.00 and a few minutes to save your child’s life. If you are lucky, they may find the time to say “what a tragedy” it is when children die from something so easily preventable – but do not liken this to action, as nothing more will be done. Too bad, so sad; now get out of my life forever. Refugees are not people anymore; they are facts and figures. That is why you are not concerned with helping them, right? Or is it because your children need to have a dvd player in your fancy new SUV more than other children need to eat? Sure, thousands of people are starving to death – needlessly – every day, but your children are your priority and it is very important they have the best money can buy. So what if you could have saved a few lives instead – so long as it is not your child.