I’ve seen some edited videos going around, which attempt to depict our tired, cold, hungry, polite, gracious, and thankful refugees as a scary mob – marching upon Europe to take over the world.
To those of us who work with refugees on the ground and have personal face-to-face experience with them over periods of months on end, these videos are clear as hoaxes.
It is the people who have personal first-hand experience with the refugees who are not even slightly frightened by them and who infallibly act to support their human rights – including Human Right #14 “The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live.”
When we see these videos going around, they are ridiculous to us. They use cuts and pastes of footage from questionable contexts, leading the viewer to assume that refugees are being pictured or even spoken about when there is actually no certain evidence of that. Even the most mundane scenes are overlayed with frightening music to make them appear alarming. Any experienced video editor can see that the videos are highly, highly, highly edited to present a certain picture – and that picture happens to be false.
Those videos would be laughable if not so destructive.
If every person in Europe were able to spend one day volunteering in a refugee camp, there would be no controversy. It would be impossible for the media to succeed in its campaign to dehumanize hundreds of thousands of innocent and desperate people and families.
Well, we can’t all be everywhere in the world at the same time to see with our own eyes what is spoken about in the media. So I lay no blame at the doorsteps of those who have been confused. I myself was not certain what to believe until I visited a camp for the first time. I am fortunate enough to have that first-hand experience which I know many others would like to have.
But what we can all do, or try to do, is turn off the TV. And seek information from others who do have that first-hand knowledge. And I mean real people, perhaps even people you know. Not mainstream media or edited video clips.
I am often amazed at the graciousness and patience exhibited by the refugees. I am more short-tempered after a long flight, than these people are after weeks, months, or years of: running for their lives, nearly drowning, nearly freezing to death, losing their loved ones … and traveling on and on, on foot, in unheated trains, and without access to hotels, stores, clothing, hygiene facilities, or proper food.
On the ground, the Syrians in particular have a reputation for how polite and honest they are. A common and well-known scenario is this. Volunteer A gives a Syrian refugee a pair of socks, the refugee puts the socks in his pocket. Volunteer B later tries to give him socks again. The Syrian refugee pulls the socks out of his pocket to show Volunteer B that he already has socks. It’s not that he couldn’t use another pair of socks. Oh, he really could. But he wants to be sure there are enough socks to go around. He understands that socks cost money and he respects the financial donors who paid for the socks. Just about any volunteer working with Syrian refugees has observed this.
Refugees often volunteer to help us on the ground, distributing clothing and food to other refugees, translating, and helping us find lost parents. They’ve even offered me their own blankets – blankets I had just given them – when we were all sitting out in the freezing cold.
They are professionals and tradespeople: engineers, dentists, doctors. They are university students, grandparents, pregnant mothers, elderly people, handicaps, and children. One very polite Syrian man offered to help translate for another refugee when I was struggling to explain something. His English was so good, I asked about it. He told me he was studying English literature in college. He asked for information about my activity so that he could perhaps help us with it, once he settled in in his final destination.
What do the refugees want? A normal life. A roof over their families’ heads. An education for their children. And they want to survive.
Unfortunately these people are also tired, cold, hungry, and ill. Despite this they are incredibly calm.
A Russian tourist once came to the camp to work with us for a night. She seemed nervous while we were waiting for the train. After the train of refugees came and left, she told me, “I was surprised they were so polite! I thought they would all be rushing at me and grabbing for things all at once!”
The media’s campaign of false information against our refugees has other consequences. Just recently several refugees have been hospitalized by hate crimes and random acts of violence.
As I write this post, I see a post from another volunteer on this same subject. As Wieke Löwenhardt puts it:
“I am worried. Should I make my hiding places for Muslims and refugees ready? Or for Jews and blacks too? Or for all that is different from blond and blue?
Are we too blind to see what is happening?”
My answer is, yes. But can we change that? As a culture, we have developed a habit of sourcing our information from the worst of possible sources – mainstream media. Vested interests. Perhaps those same vested interests who created this catastrophe to begin with.
As a culture, it is time for us to turn off the TV and start looking at the world with our own eyes. If you want to see the truth, put it in front of you, in all three dimensions. And if you can’t do that, please try to find a friend who can.
The fate of hundreds of thousands of innocent people is in our hands.
– Megan Tucker
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