It’s all over the news. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homelands in order to survive and risking their lives to do so. While thousands are arriving in Europe every day, they represent a tiny fraction of the refugee population, for example there are about one million Syrian refugees just in Lebanon.
Here are some of some “facts on the ground.” (Europe’s Refugee Crisis by the Numbers-Yahoo News)
- Number of displaced people internally after Syrian conflict: More than 6 million
- Registered refugees in other countries after Syrian conflict: More than 4 million
- Mediterranean Sea crossings by refugees and migrants so far this year: 300,000
- Mediterranean Sea crossings by refugees and migrants for all of 2014: 219,000
- Expected asylum seekers in Germany this year: 800,000
The following clip portrays a moment in this tragic story. Thousands of refugees are streaming into Hungary with no provisions or food; children are lying in the street with nowhere to sleep. The words they speak and signs they carry are blunt: “My family is waiting for me” — “I am human, what about me?” We see compassionate local residents and people from other countries bringing much-needed supplies. As one concerned citizen puts it “all of these people who are fleeing from war and terror, they have a right for a safe home. I think it’s our duty to help them find a safe place.” Another says, “I was shocked when we got here. The sadness of the situation really got to me. All my prejudices disappeared. It is also so sad to see families here who had work and decent lives back home.”
At one crucial moment in the clip, an argument breaks out between some locals. In reaction to a Syrian boy waving a Hungarian flag, someone says, “People from other countries shouldn’t be waving the Hungarian flag.” Another responds, “Why shouldn’t it belong in their hands? I’m Hungarian and I allow it.” Another joins the argument saying, “Back home they are being bombed.” The response? “Take them back to your house then.” The reply?, “I will take them. I live here, I don’t like this, this is not a good thing. This isn’t about politics, this is about human beings who I see changing their kids’ nappies on the streets. These are people and we need to help them. I don’t care whether they should or shouldn’t have come here. I just can’t stand by and watch them suffer.”
While this is a tragedy on a global scale, it is not taking place in some far off place. This sad story is happening right on our doorstep. For international schools here in Europe, history is unfolding before our eyes and there are indeed many historical and life lessons to learn and many questions to ask.
What can international schools do? First and foremost we can only act responsibly by understanding and educating ourselves and our community. Then, identify ways to truly support those in need, especially children, in as meaningful a way as possible. While financial contributions are helpful, making real connections, not only helps others but allows all of us to learn and grow as human beings. Isn’t that what it’s all about?