The Syrian Refugee Crisis is something that truly seems a world away for us here in North America. It seems to be nothing more than a news story that we have watched, a strange narrative we don’t fully grasp.
Most Americans form opinions based on what we see, what we read and what we hear. Earlier this year I traveled as a photo and video journalist to Lebanon to see the frontlines of this crisis for myself. While I have been in the Middle East before, this was a new experience being in the refugee camps.
My fellow journalist who was traveling with me had never been in the Middle East. Within just 24 hours he made a comment that I believe most of you would have made. He said, “I thought everyone here would be wearing Hijabs and Burkas; and have dark skin.” Why? Because most often this is the view of the Middle East that is shown in western media. Stereotypes are formulated on a limited worldview and rarely to we labor to learn more.
Bottom line, without exposure to something different, our minds formulate a view of what we believe to be reality. And, most often, it creates a disconnection from the human experience. It dehumanizes people because they must be so different from us that we could never relate.
The Syrian people, specifically the refugees we often see in the news, are victims of this concept. In reality, they are people just like you and I. They are people who fight for the basics in life, They are hoping for a better life, better income, better education and a hope of a better future.
Even if some dress differently, or speak a different language, we share much in common. There are mothers and fathers who’s only hope is to give their children a better future. They are people who have experienced great loss and carry great pain. They fight every day to make more money, feed their families and find a moment of rest. Yet, they live on the frontlines of a war that has torn apart their homeland. Something you and I will never truly understand!
The struggle against ISIS seems surreal in our American point of view. After all, we haven’t had a war on our own soil in over 150 years. Our point of view will remain limited until we experience war first hand.
During my time with the Syrian people I interviewed those who lost children and spouses, specifically to ISIS. I listened as the stories of fleeing war were recounted numerous times. I watched as men, women and children relived the horrors of fear, loss and terror as they shared their stories. Without exception, each of them had left behind everything they owned in hopes of mere survival.
When you look into the eyes of a mother, a young boy or a desperate father who simply wants peace, hope and the possibility of a future; the stories become personal. After all, what if that was your story? What if that was your family? What if that was your reality?
I met and interviewed former business owners, college professors and housewives who now live in abject poverty. I saw first hand the cost of survival. I listened to pain created by war, terror and religious extremism. I listened as a woman recounted the murder of her husband because he refused to join ISIS in their mission.
This is a reality that impacts millions. This is much more than a news story. This is a crisis that demands our attention. While there are great organizations who are serving, giving and loving people through this crisis, there must be more. We need to lend our voices to this awful tragedy. We need to stand up, speak out and offer support.
ISIS and the evil of extremism is taking a dark, strong hold on the Middle East. Sharing Facebook Posts, watching televisions and hoping for change is not enough. We need to give, serve and go offer aid.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Sir Edmund Burke
In Lebanon alone there are about 2 million Syrian refugees. They are in need of food, shelter, education and much more. This is just one area out of many. The reality is that we cannot do it all, but we can do more!
I offer my images to you, maybe you will see a bit of yourself in the faces of these people. In the midst of great pain and suffering, they cling to the hope of a better tomorrow. Take time, educate yourself and discover unique ways you can serve, donate and participate in the relief efforts.