According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who
Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.
Intolerance, racism, injustice, persecution—the people of the world have been hurting each other since the dawn of time. While most of us fundamentally believe that no one has the right to take a life (under ordinary circumstances), we have been killing each other throughout history for inane and oftentimes ridiculous reasons. Let’s take a look:
- WWII. Jews fleeing European countries to avoid concentration camps and religious persecution. (Did you know that the Allies lost over 60 million lives defending Democracy and basic human rights during WWII, while the Axis powers only lost 11 million?)
- Darfur. The president is alleged to have “masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups, on account of their ethnicity. His motives were largely political. His alibi was a ‘counterinsurgency.’ His intent was genocide.“1 As a result, millions were forced to flee their homes.
- Bosnia. Thousands of Bosnians were driven from their homes as a result of “ethnic cleansing” in former Yugoslavia.
- Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide—refers to the deliberate and systematic destruction (genocide) of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I.2 Hmm. Sound familiar?
- Iraq. Five years into the US military intervention in Iraq, the country is dealing with one of the largest humanitarian and displacement crises in the world.3
- There’s more. Historical and contemporary refugee crises
There is so much going on in the world right now. I will consider this post a success even if all you do after reading it is reflect on what it means to be a refugee and give thanks that you are fortunate enough to live in the United States (warts and all).
- Refugees United—provides refugees with an anonymous forum to reconnect with missing family.
- SOS Children’s Village’s
- Take Action—Tell congress to increase efforts to prevent and reduce statelessness
- Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children
- Invisible Children: The bracelet campaign or Invisible Children: Apparel (I wrote about them in September: Killing for Christianity.)