I do not mean this as a political post, but a call to action post. As many of you are, I am both concerned and disheartened to hear of the many good people that had previously been issued a visa or a green card that can suddenly not get into the country. This is very alarming!
Many of you are also concerned with an protesting the stoppage of Syrian refugees and reduction of overall refugees accepted into the US on an annual basis. The facts are that will be capped at 50K, down from around 70K that Obama was taking the last few years but in alignment with what was taken by him prior to that. This is the total number from all countries in the world. There are 5 million documented Syrian refugees residing outside of their country and 13.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. Of those 13.5 million needing help, 6.5 million are Internally Displaced People in Syria. In Lebanon, there are 1.5 million refugees with an estimated 750K or more undocumented and rapidly growing. This is only an estimate but I feel is probably conservative. Most cannot afford to be documented.
Last year, there were over 13K Syrian refugees resettled in the USA. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis the number is not even at 14,500. That means that since the crisis we have not even taken in .3% of the Syrian refugees. .3% This is a drop in the bucket! Even if we ignored all the other areas of the world and took in 50K refugees, it is still a drop in the bucket of all that need help in just Syria and a drop in the bucket of all that need help in the world! There are many areas experiencing humanitarian crisis, even if I am partial in having a heart for the people in Syria and the Middle East.
The other issue to consider is that we do cherry pick the people that come over. This is good for the USA with many of the people being very educated and having skills that could be used in our country, such as doctors. However, this is not good for the refugees. The poorest of the poor don’t even have the knowledge of how to begin the process of immigration. Here in Lebanon, we have had some ministries help support the families in filling out forms and going through the process. This never would have been accomplished by themselves. Trust me, the people that are the most poor and needy and require the most help are not the ones getting accepted, not just by us but by any country. The people that need the most help cannot even afford the smugglers to get them out of the country or cannot go through the legitimate process of registering as a documented refugee. The people that afforded to get on a smuggler’s boat to Turkey and Greece had more money than many of those that fled to Lebanon either legally or illegally. Those with no money at all are stuck in Syria.
We have a responsibility to help and by help I mean not just by allowing .3% of them into our country. That is just not practical to accommodate enough to make a difference in the crisis. We need to look for ways that we can be involved on the ground both in Syria and other places that the refugees have landed. Lebanon and Turkey and Jordan huge populations of refugees. 70% in Lebanon live below the poverty line and the average salary is half of what the Lebanese make and far below the basic cost to survive. The infrastructure of Lebanon was taxed before Beirut almost doubled in population. Between the city and the impoverished refugee camps in the Bekaa valley, it is a dire situation.
I cannot help but to think of what will happen in the future if we do not help provide especially for these children, the tragic victims of war, and help them get their basic needs met and get a quality education. Many Syrian children have been without education for 5 years now. Protecting the security of the USA and stamping out radical extremism will come through us loving and serving those nothing like us (whose beliefs may be 100% opposite of ours) and ensuring they have opportunities for success in their own country or anywhere. What will the Middle East look like in 20 years if we don’t help with the healing by loving, serving and educating these people? There will be a generation of children will have grown up with no education or opportunities for better life, desensitized to tragedy and the gruesome realities of war. They will be ripe for extremist indoctrination and will continue to despise the West because of what they perceive we will have done to them. We will only have perpetuated this sad cycle of war and violence.
My American friends, not trying to take political sides here but we helped create this mess and this instability in Syria and throughout the region. We must do more than accept a few refugees into the USA. We need to contribute to organizations on the ground in the Middle East and if we can, give our time, talents and lives to help bringing lasting change. On a political front, we must encourage our politicians to stay out of creating wars in the Middle East or interfering in regional conflicts (other than in humanitarian capacities) thereby creating the instability and humanitarian crises to begin with.
At the Life Center Beirut, I am a part of a small organization that is helping provide badly needed educational assistance to the refugee children as well as providing housing, relief and support to refugees in the area. Our work only makes a very small drop in the bucket as well, but I am grateful we are joined by many other organizations that are on the ground working to make a difference in these people’s lives. www.lifecenterbeirut.org I would encourage you to donate to the Life Center Beirut and our valuable work. We have a parent organization that is a registered 501c3 in the States that you can donate to and make a tax deductible gift. (Please select “ME Life Center” or “Spring of Life Lebanon” from the drop down https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=a143d3) If you do not want to give to our organization, find one that you feel comfortable with that is on the ground here in the Middle East. Please do make sure they are actually getting stuff done with the donations, not just lots of overhead costs as I see many of them doing. There are many needs here from human rights, education, medical, food, basic supplies. Just give somewhere here. Please! We need you!!
Giving money to fight to get more refugees in the USA is not going to fix things or change the region, but on the political front, us staying out of creating or interfering in wars in the ME might help with the stability though as we wouldn’t be contributing to the crisis to begin with. But since we did help create this crisis, we all have a responsibility to help. Thank you for listening to my long call to action!!