Today, June 20th is World Refugee Day. It’s a day to pause and recognize the courage and determination shown by the 65.6 million people who have been forced to flee their homes because of violence, war, or persecution.
But also, it’s a day to fight against indifference and fear.
In his statement today, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, acknowledged these unfortunately common sentiments, saying that political upheaval and violence near our borders makes us want to “shut our eyes or close our doors.”
It’s easy to turn off the news and ignore what’s happening to millions of people around the globe. Or “wash our hands” of responsibility because the problem seems too big. But let’s not do that today.
Grandi called on all of us to take a moment while remembering the millions who cannot return to their homes to ask ourselves how we can become more inclusive, welcoming, and aware.
We can overcome indifference and fear. In honor of World Refugee Day, here are three small ways to do it.
The news can twist facts. Or focus on one terrible event amongst the sea of positive stories. This is why it’s important to dig a teensy bit deeper than the slanted articles that look like news that you see while scrolling your Facebook feed.
In cases like this, ignorance isn’t bliss—it can breed fear. Because in reality, allowing refugees to cross a border is not an open channel allowing terrorists into a country. And contrary to the impression of images on news shows, the U.S. and Europe do not host a disproportionate number of refugees compared to the rest of the world. Take a look at the figure above. Watch this short video about refugees and terrorism statistics. Glance over this UN report about the forced displacement in the world today. Don’t just go off a headline to two you see. Do a bit of reading to understand the broader picture before forming your opinions.
Keep a positive conversation going
Fight the globalization of indifference by keeping up with what is happening in our world and continuing to talk about it. There are a lot of misconceptions being perpetuated by the media (this article dispels some of the most common), so sharing a news story or image with a positive message or that gently corrects a stereotype is a good way to keep the conversation going. Today you can show solidarity by signing the UN’s #WithRefugees petition and sharing it on your social media.
There’s something integral to the human experience when it comes to being generous with time and money, even if you can only spare a little. If you’re researching and interacting with organizations then there’s a good chance you’ll get to meet some of the people you’re helping. There’s no better way to combat fear and indifference than by putting a face and name with some of those statistics.
If you can give financially, research an organization make a donation (the UN and IRC are two places to start). For donations in kind or to volunteer, do a quick search to see if there are organizations working with refugees in your community. Many of these are on the lookout for people to tutor or to spend time practicing English with school-aged children. Their websites will also let you know if they need things like clothes, household goods, or new hygiene items.
How do you fight off indifference? Do you have strategies for correcting alternative facts or skewed stories? Help us out by sharing your thoughts in the comments below!