Prior to setting off on this German endeavor to document the refugee resettlement, I received an array of reactions. Most of which consisted of immediate surprise, skepticism, and curiosity. Most people were initially shocked that a young, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, bubbly 22-year-old female was interested in contributing to such a momentous and complex topic – and even more – that I was interested in working with actual refugees.
Some people looked at me with worry and immediate concern. Some questioned, “wow, what do your parents think about that?” One interesting distinction I made was out of the many middle-aged people I told, nearly every person told me to be incredibly careful. In fact, most reminded me again and again. One even said, “they’re not all innocent you know.”
I also noted that out of all of the young adults around my age whom I told, majority responded in surprise, but were much more interested in what I’m actually going to be doing. Most displayed curiosity regarding the refugees, while at the same time indicating that they really didn’t know much about the crisis.
I think that’s why most steered away from asking anything in-depth. Most people carefully tiptoed around the topic as it has unfortunately become seemingly highly political, as most things have.
Although, I recall one friend bringing it up in efforts to further understand my trip, which I found incredibly refreshing. However, what she asked surprised me, yet indicated the situation I believe so many people – especially young people – are currently in.
She asked me what makes someone a refugee.
While I was at first a little blindsided by the question, I told her. This question haunted me for a few days because as someone who spends much of my time dedicated to this topic, it was hard to grasp that a college student, American citizen and voter was so unaware of a situation that has shaken huge parts of the world we live in today. But, she’s not the problem. The problem lies in so many aspects of our daily American life.
For only being in Germany less than two weeks, I’ve realized how little the incredibly important refugee topic is talked about in the United States. Instead, it seems we perpetually focus on right vs. left, political scandals, religion, Russian probes, tweets, and controversial photographs, all the while there are millions of people being persecuted, being killed, fleeing their homes, and facing a world of hate every single day.
In order to understand the refugee crisis for what it is, it’s important to first realize that there shouldn’t be anything partisan or divisive about millions of innocent men, women, and children enduring this type of suffering. I think that is something everyone can agree on and want to put an end to.
With not nearly enough media coverage focused on the refugees and their specific stories and challenges, or constructive conversations between Americans and actual refugees – it’s no wonder that we are blinded to this harsh reality that has been deemed the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
I thought I was decently informed on what’s occurring in the Middle East, but I’ve quickly learned that there is much more to know. Becoming educated and hearing these real perspectives and stories from people who know Syria best, although immensely heartbreaking at times, is profoundly important in making the world a better and more sympathetic place.
And as our new friend, Ahmad, spoke to us, “this sound must be heard.”