“You have to understand, no one would put their children in a boat
unless the sea is safer than the land.”
Perhaps like me, you have been wondering what to do as a response to the refugee crisis. The images and stories inform us about the reality of what is the worst humanitarian crisis since the second world war, and yet they also have a potential to paralyse us, making us feeling helpless in the light of the crisis. In the last days a few articles popped up inviting us into action: 5 practical ways you can help refugees trying to find safety in Europe (from the UK perspective) and 5 Practical Things You Can Do About the Refugee Crisis From Ireland.
Here I will offer a few suggestion also. My list is not going to be exhausting. I will narrow it down to three things: pray, contact the government and donate.
Pray. When he was still a child, Jesus was a refugee himself. Mary and Joseph had to take him to Egypt, because their homeland was not safe for them. Jesus knows all the pain the refugee are going through, he aches for them. We will never know how our prayers may help, who they may comfort, what doors may be opened due to them. A heartfelt prayer often inspires action, so don’t think that if you pray that you are taking an easy way out. Thomas Merton said that the “root of war is fear”, but fear also comes as a result of war. Many people fleeing their countries do so in fear, and that fear is very much justified. Praying for the refugees might bring them some comfort, however small. Also, maybe our prayers will sustain the volunteers working on the ground or inspire a political action that will be crucial in helping the people in need. But we don’t need to worry what our prayers will do, we can leave that to God. What is important is to keep the whole situation in our daily prayer, make it as specific as the Spirit leads us, and be open if prayer moves us to act.
Contact the government. Just last week I thought I could only pray, and while I believe prayer is essential as I wrote above, it did not seem enough. I wrote a poem Refugee crisis but I had no idea what else to do. Thankfully there is something we can do: we can be proactive. If you live in Ireland, you can contact all TDS here. You can also write to the Minister of the Foreign Affairs. I did both. In Europe the response to the crisis has been mixed. While some countries have responded generously, others have built walls, either the barbed-wire walls, or the invisible ones that are equally damaging. Most of these countries have experienced war in some shape or form, and no matter which side they were on at the time, they know how shattering the effects of the war are. One would think that this knowledge would inspire a compassionate response, but not necessarily. We can challenge that by contacting the government.
Donate. There are people in direct contact with the refugees who need resources in order to be able to provide much needed help. You don’t have to donate much, if you are not able to. You can decide to skip dinner one or two evenings a week or have one less coffee and put the money you saved towards a donation. If thousand of us donated 5 euro that would be 5000 euro. You get the picture. Little can be a lot. One possible organisation to support is MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station). They are a family business helping to save people in the Mediterranean. Alternatively, you may want to support the The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). You will find more options on the two links provided above.
As I said, this is not an exhaustive list. You are probably already doing things that are not on this list. None of us will do all that can be done, but if we each do our little bit, and keep doing it, a lot can be done. I wish I could say it is not a matter of life or death, but it is.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 4th September, 2015)