“Imagine you are sixteen and you are always afraid to be dead at any minute.”
The girl who said this is the same age as I am, and she makes me want to cry.
Now I am no politician. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the refugee crisis. I am only a teenager living in America who loves people. Again I say, I am no politician. I am only a humanitarian living on the other side of the globe. But I still care, and you should too.
The refugee crisis is no easy thing to define. I’ll try to explain it briefly to the best of my ability and understanding. Basically, millions of people from Syria and other countries have been displaced because of war, persecution, and violence. These people are fleeing to Europe in search of political asylum. The majority of them are willing to risk the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Many of you have probably seen the gut-wrenching pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned along with his mother during the passage and whose body washed up on shore. That is the kind of risk that so many take to escape their war-town homeland. Yet, a lot of countries, including America, either don’t want to take in refugees or are afraid to. But, all I can think about are the countless reels of footage I’ve seen of tired, sick, hungry people who just want peace. Somebody needs to help.
I feel so powerless as a young person so many miles away from this crisis. I have no money to give, no means by which to communicate with these suffering people, and no way to help except by trying to make others aware of what is happening.
I have seen and heard so many vacuous remarks about the refugees that I am downright disgusted at the lack of love and humanity. The issue is far too complicated for anyone – myself included – to try to dissect all its facets. But the two main arguments I have heard against aiding the refugees are the unfounded belief that most of them are military-age men (i.e. potential terrorists) – in fact, the majority are women and children – and that their “Muslim brothers,” the Gulf Arab countries, should be the ones to take them in, not Western countries. How any American living comfortably in the safety of their home with enough food to feed their family and not living in the constant shadow of fear could have the audacity to make such comments is beyond me.
I can understand some people’s hesitation, especially after the events of 9/11. I am not so naive as to say that every refugee is a good person, but we have to look at the situation realistically and with love in our hearts. These refugees are people, not cattle to be pushed from border to border by governments who have decided that they don’t want to deal with them. There are a million more things to be said about the topic, and I don’t know it all. The situation is a big mess, but I think that we can all agree that when it comes down to it, it is mostly just sad.
Now imagine that you are 16 years old, and death could happen to you at any moment. No matter what age, too many people are living like this right now. I don’t know all the answers. All I know is that those of us who were lucky enough to be born in a safe and prosperous country should be helping those in need in whatever way we can.
The Syrian refugee girl whose quote is the opening of my essay is Noujain Mustaffa. She loves the TV show “Days of our Lives” and wants to become an astronaut. She is also paralyzed from the waist down and as far as I know is still in a refugee camp waiting for help, like millions of others.
I pray for all of them.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.