Most of us have heard about the Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis through a political and military lens, but what about the human impact on civilians just like us? The reality is that an estimated 40% of casualties in the Syrian Civil War have been of civilians. Syrians who manage to flee outside their native country face dangers that we can help prevent. David Wildman, author and Executive Secretary for Human Rights at United Methodist Church, visited Hofstra to discuss the human rights of refugees and how we can all take concrete steps in the right direction to protect those rights.
What We Should Know
The discussion covered some of the reasons why the war that drives so many people from home continues to this day. World powers like the United States and others sell weapons into the country, which in turn fuels more conflict and creates a greater need for weapons which these outside nations can profit from. Our politicians do not challenge this idea that war is good for business because they are concerned with the short-term interests of their campaigns. Meanwhile, the consequences of this foreign policy can last much longer for those on the ground in this region. With our overly-militarized foreign policy, we do not devote enough resources to supporting NGO’s like the United Nations World Food Program trying to restore rights and basic needs to those affected by the war. After all of those hurdles, refugees then face closed borders in safe countries and islamophobia in those they do reach.
What We Should Do
These international issues may seem too complex and unreachable to change, but the foundation of our democracy is that our votes help shape things like foreign policy. We must call on politicians to push for negotiations, aid, and peace talks over military responses that deepen long-lasting problems. This event ended with attendees signing letters to congresswoman Kathleen Rice asking for greater action in this direction. Don’t be afraid to write to your own local representatives letting them know what issues need to be addressed: they work for you. Also, take action on negative attitudes toward refugees by discussing the long history of immigration and international struggle that shaped many of our own ancestor’s journeys to this country. In the words of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the fear of refugees:
“Ultimately being open and respectful towards each other is a much more powerful way to defuse hatred and anger than big walls and oppressive policies.”
This event was part of the International Scene Lecture Series, presented in cooperation with CCE, Long Island Teachers for Human Rights, and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives (www.longislandpeace.org).
Quote from CBC.
Image Source: VancityBuzz.com