If there is one thing that I feel extremely passionate about as a millennial in 2016, it is the acceptance of Syrian refugees into not only North American countries, but also any nation with the ability and offering of safety to do so. Perhaps my acceptance (I resent the word ‘tolerance’ in this matter, because simply tolerating another human being not only seems sordid to me, but reflects a sense of feeling obligated to do something – that one would opt not to, if free from moral obligations) is sourced in my Canadian upbringing and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s candid welcoming of the Syrian refugees into our nation. A great number of my fellow citizens utilized the hashtag #WelcomeRefugees whilst the country has been resettling 25,000 Syrians into our safe haven of a nation, as a sign of support and demonstration of love and acceptance to these now-protected people.
However, this isn’t to say that all Canadians are welcoming; indeed, I know of too many people who have not only verbally expressed their distaste to helping the refugees ( their conclusions drawn in ignorance, I must say), but have been posting intolerant comments concerning the topic on social media. We may be accepting as a nation, but that does not mean that each and every one of us reflects the same peaceful and loving ideologies. The hateful comments I can see commonly echo the same false presumptions: we have no room for them in our country, they are taking our jobs, and worst yet, that these people are terrorists. I know that in the United States, citizens are worried about the same thing, and to them, I have the same thing to say as I do to misunderstanding Canadians:
Do your research.
I can safely tell you that if countries containing cities with the highest population densities such as Manila (Philippines), Levallois-Perret (France), and Neapoli (Greece) can hold an exceedingly large number of people, so can nations with immense square footage. In fact, only one American city made the list for the top 39 most densely populated cities, and that was Union City, New Jersey. No other American or Canadian city made the list. Does that not mean that if other first-world nations are maintaining a much more dense population within one city, we could easily let in thousands of refugees spread out over an entire country?
Further, do you think that they will be taking our jobs? More workers in a country actually increases the economy because earning money = spending money. An increase in the economy goes hand-in-hand with more production of products, more services required (because people have the money for such things), and so forth… this therefore means more jobs available for everyone, because more jobs are needed.
As a side note, I do not doubt that many of these refugees would like to return to their motherland when it is safe to do so; there is the place where they originated from, where their lives were built before they were destroyed, and where many of their family members still remain. Even if they choose to stay in their new country, it is because we are a better nation with greater opportunity. Is it fair to deny people the prospect of a new life, when that is one the very aspects that our nations were founded upon? You know, back when our Europeans ancestors came across the ocean to push their way onto Aboriginal lands (check this out if you’re not familiar with the extent to which our founding fathers ruined the lives and culture of North America’s original people). The very least we could do is aid a group of people in desperate need of safety. They are not trying to take our resources from us, but are merely asking us to sanction them a place to survive a war.
Lastly, “they’re terrorists”. Oh, man. It is not that the fear of terrorism occurring in one’s country is not a legitimate concern – I do not deny that. I fear terrorists and I fear the possibility that they could potentially infiltrate North American soil one day. That being said, I am also very much aware that the fears of many people concerning terrorism are the wrong ones.
The refugees fleeing the Middle East are doing so because they are afraid of the extremists that not only reside in their homeland, but are wreaking havoc upon the innocent lives that do not agree with their backward notions of what the Islamic religion is. Just as there are radically violent and hateful Christians in this world (which many Christians seem to ‘forget’, or rather, deny), there are radicals in other religions, as well. This does not make the Muslim extremists any more horrible than the Christian, Jewish, Hindi, etc. ones. Terrorist acts are terrorist acts. harm to any individual due to any single aspect that they cannot alter and were born with is an act of terrorism. It is all wrong.
If we are so terrified of terrorism and wish to protect humanity from extremists in this day and age, that must also encompass the protection the Syrian refugees who are fleeing from the violence directed to them by ISIS and similar radical groups.
Denial of safety to refugees seeking protection from persecution and death does not sit well with me in the least. Having visited several Nazi camps in my trip to Europe several years back, I can say that my time spent in these places were sobering. For the first time in my life, I had questioned humanity and what it truly means to be compassionate to the people that we share this planet with. We often claim to be benevolent and charitable, but we turn a blind eye when it truly comes down to it; we often let the moments where we can actually make a difference in someone’s life slip away.
With this all in mind, do we not recall the Second World War, when throngs of Jewish people fled Europe to escape anti-Semitism on the S.S. St. Louis, only to be turned away by Canada when they reached our borders? These are men, women, and children who were denied their basic right to life, and were sent back to a place of unjustified and inexcusable hatred, where many eventually met their deaths in both Nazi concentration and death camps.
No one would uproot their family (including their small children) from their home, cross the world in often perilous and potentially fatal conditions, to arrive in a nation where people express distaste, contempt, and sometimes even terroristic violence toward them, if the place they were fleeing from was not worse. We are their safety zone right now, and it is only fair to allow these people in and protect them to the best of our abilities. We would want the same, if we were under similar threat, would we not?
I am not prepared to allow innocent lives to be turned away due to ignorance. I am ready to take a stand and say something, as enlightening even a single person is worth the time and effort it takes to discuss such a vital subject.
As millennials, we can easily make a difference if we choose to take a stand for what is right. Though Canada is already allowing Syrian refugees into our borders, our American allies can push for the same acceptance of basic human rights by advocating for the sanctuary of those in need. Once such petition can be found here.
As Mother Teresa said, “Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.” Our small steps toward making a difference can result in the ultimate goal of bringing about a more peaceful world. It all begins with you.