copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
I cannot sit comfortably in my cozy home, at my glorious computer [The Old Soul] without crying out in pain. Throughout the world, today, more so than yesterday, or last year, we witness man’s inhumanity to man.
Forty million persons, men, women and children crouch on street corners, squat in small rooms, sit in squalor, and wonder if they might survive. Some are in better circumstances. They have found homes; however, they remain in exile from their families, friends, and all that is familiar.
The United Nations Refugee Center tries to reach out; they have for more than half a century. This organization works to promote awareness. Yet, they need our help. For those that remain as I do snug in my surroundings, it is difficult to relate to a life so challenging. Nonetheless, I believe we must try and keep hope alive.
In Iraq alone the continuous flood of violence has left many homeless. In December 2006 the Guardian Unlimited reported findings that were distressing then.
A report (pdf) by Washington-based Refugees International said an influx of Iraqis threatened to overwhelm other Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria, Jordon and Lebanon.That was three hundred and sixty-five long hard days ago. Today, the situation is worse. As the brutality increases so too do the numbers. People are fleeing for their lives. They leave the native soils they love. Approximately fifty thousand Iraqis escape from what was once their sanctuary, their country each month. The numbers of individuals internally displaced is innumerable. More than 2.2 million Iraqis have fled since the current American-led war began. Two million Iraqis have been displaced inside this Middle Eastern nation.
Last month, the UN estimated that 100,000 people were fleeing the country each month, with the number of Iraqis now living in other Arab countries standing at 1.8 million.
Today's [December 7, 2006] report came, as George Bush and Tony Blair were due to discuss the situation in Iraq, which the bipartisan Iraq Study Group yesterday described as "grave and deteriorating".
Refugees International said the acceleration in the numbers fleeing Iraq meant it could soon overtake the refugee crisis in Darfur.
"We're not saying it's the largest [refugee crisis], but it's quickly becoming the largest," spokeswoman Kristele Younes said. "The numbers are very, very scary."
Ms Younes said the most pressing concern was to prevent other countries from sending Iraqis back to the violence that had forced them to flee their mother country.
The report revealed Iraqi refugees were facing tough restrictions in other Arab countries, preventing them from finding work or gaining access to healthcare and other public services.
In the Republic of the Congo, another fifty six thousand refugees fight for a semblance of the life. The good life that most Americans take for granted is far more than a step away.
Most of us are familiar, if only in words with the situation in Sudan. However, might we begin to consider more than the numbers of persons in exile. Let us attempt to place ourselves in the situation that envelops the émigrés.
There are 116,746 refugees in Eritrea, 20,000 in Chad, 14,633 struggling to survive in Ethiopia, 7,895 fraught in Uganda, 5,023 burdened and begging for a sense of normalcy in Central African Republic.
In a May 2004 News Hour report Correspondent Fred De Sam Lazaro spoke of the conditions refugees in Sudan endured daily.
For 15 months, more than 100,000 people have trekked across some of Africa's most forbidding terrain to reach safety in eastern Chad. They arrive in small groups, bringing stories of rape and other atrocities committed by people they call Arabs -- allegedly supported by the Sudanese government -- in neighboring Sudan's Darfur region. Another one million so-called "black" Sudanese who have been displaced from their homes remain in Darfur. Human rights groups back up their accusations of ethnic cleansing even though Darfur has been mostly closed to the outside world.It is challenging to feel hopeful, to dream of a better life when there is not enough water to sustain oneself, let alone the animals. To think, these were the conditions three years ago in this desert region. In Darfur, two years later, there was evidence of a deepening decline.
In the relative safety of Chad's refugee camps, the day usually begins around 5:00 am. Women like Jamila Numere start a daunting pursuit of life's most basic needs. Water comes from a hastily dug, shallow well.
Behind the people at the well are donkeys, prized beasts of burden. But their needs must come second. There's simply not enough water to go around. The stench of death is everywhere. One of relief worker Gillian Dunn's top priorities has been to burn thousands of animal carcasses.
A Loss of Hope Inside Darfur Refugee CampsMight we begin to believe that life is fragile; refugees were once as we are. A college graduate, a teacher, who lived a “comfortable life, now lives in dire need. Today, this woman, Armani Tinjany exists, not much more. Her circumstances cause her to question everything she ever believed to be true. She is genteel, has the manners of a lady. This graceful and generous soul apologizes for not offering her guest tea. Yet, few apologize to Armani Tinjany. Less even acknowledge her or her circumstance.
Over Two Years, a Genocide Comes Into View
By Emily Wax
Sunday, April 30, 2006; A12
NAIROBI -- On a stretch of the austere desert in Chad, just across the border from the Darfur region of Sudan, signs of tragedy came into full view: tattered clothing caught on the branches of thornbushes, carcasses of camels and goats that died on the long journey out.
Then the people began to appear: haggard young girls with siblings on their backs, old men riding atop donkeys piled high with cooking pots, water jugs and mats, and elderly grandmothers, some with gunshot wounds, being pushed through the sand in wheelbarrows.
And then: a group of female teachers, squatting in a dry riverbed, trying to find shelter from sandstorms that were building over the horizon and turning the air into a wall of thick, orange dust.
It was a boiling-hot day in February 2004, and it was my first trip to investigate what were then vague reports of refugees streaming across the desolate border.
A woman came out from under some trees in the riverbed to greet me. Her name was Armani Tinjany, and she was a beautiful 29-year-old Sudanese teacher, tall and gracious in a flowing orange polka-dot dress tied to her thin waist.
She grabbed my hand and in clear English told me she had a college degree and taught Arabic and agriculture to high school students. She had lived a comfortable life with her family in a village of stone compounds.
A month before I met her, her village was attacked by Arab militias known as the Janjaweed -- slang for devils on horseback. The militiamen galloped into town, burned homes and buildings, raped women and killed dozens of men while government aircraft bombed the area. The assault was a strike back at rebels who had risen up against the Arab-led government, claming economic and political discrimination.
In her rush to leave, Tinjany left her parents and her husband behind. Were they alive? She did not know.
"Are they going to leave us like this forever?" she asked. "My life, as I knew it, is finished."
She answered all my questions slowly, and often referred to a wrinkled notebook in which she had recorded the atrocities. Even with people out to kill her entire family and her tribe, she softly apologized for not being able to offer me tea.
At that time, Darfur was just another confusing African conflict. Today, it is known as the site of the first genocide of the 21st century, a human catastrophe that has pushed nearly 2.5 million people off their land and into camp cities, some housing as many as 80,000 people.
I know not how to honor those that have no real home, no sense of connection to their roots. I only submit this invitation. May we each endeavor to empathize, open our hearts and our minds to what we cannot and rarely do imagine.
I offer this plea on behalf of the people and The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. If we do nothing else, let us remember the high cost of gas means little to those without a place to call home. The debate on whether to exit Iraq is not as vital as actually leaving this war torn nation whole. Our presence in the Middle East has not been a humanitarian mission. We have only served to increase the refugee crisis in that region.
War inevitably does more to damage what was once a mother country for thousands now living in exile and fear. Those in other nations feel this; they experience it. Ethic cleansing dirties the landscape in Sudan.
Ignorance or ignoring those in other distressed nations does much harm. Our choosing to disregard our connection to the quality of life for citizens throughout the globe does not benefit them or us. While we may worry about property taxes, few there have land to live on. Often Americans focus on a topic, to the exclusion of others. Currently, the war in Iraq dominates the news. However, there is more we must attend to.
Some battlefields are less visible; yet, equally critical. I do not deny that caring for our fatherland is essential. However, if we sacrifice others while attending to our own selfish needs, all will suffer.
Please, I implore us all, myself included; do not let another day go by without working to provide peace worldwide. Let people live in the countries they love. Fretting and flittering about in cyberspace is great fun. However, we must do more. Give, in whatever way you can, even if it is only discussing the conditions of your fellow man with your neighbor. Speak to those that rarely mention or think about these issues. Let us raise consciousness and create harmony in every land.
Bring all boys and girls home, no matter what their country of origin.
I share this thought for your review.
World Refugee Day: Challenges of the 21st CenturyPlease join those that care; be a guiding light, a good neighbor, and a friend to peace, prosperity, and a long healthy life for all. Remember the refugees each day. Live your live as though it depends on the goodwill afforded your fellow man. It does.
GENEVA, June 20 (UNHCR) – Today is World Refugee Day, a day when the UN refugee agency tries to focus worldwide attention on the plight of millions of refugees and displaced people around the world. To mark the day, High Commissioner António Guterres is visiting South Sudan to witness the rapid changes in the nature of the refugee challenge in Africa.
Some 40 million people worldwide are uprooted by violence and persecution, and it is likely that the future will see more people on the move as a growing number of push factors build upon each other to create conditions for further forced displacement.
People are forced to seek refuge for increasingly interlinked reasons. They do not just flee persecution and war, but also injustice, exclusion, environmental pressures, competition for scarce resources and the miseries caused by dysfunctional states.
The task facing the international community is to understand this new environment and to find ways to unlock the potential of refugees who have much to offer if they are given the opportunity to regain control over their lives.
"Our greatest satisfaction comes from helping a refugee family to go home. Their repatriation is a ray of hope in a strife-torn region. Working together with our partners and with the support of our donors we have made a difference. But we need to do more to help refugees once again become active players in society," said António Guterres, who traveled with Sudanese refugees as they returned home from Uganda after years in exile.
Results on the ground show UNHCR is making progress. Last year, UNHCR helped hundreds of thousands of refugees return home. In Africa, in addition to stepped-up repatriation to South Sudan, bright spots include winding up of UNHCR's operations in Liberia and Angola.
Working in partnership is key. UNHCR's Council of Business Leaders, for example, is providing solutions to equip refugees with the tools and skills they will need for their future. One example of partnership in action is ninemillion.org, an online advocacy tool and fund-raising campaign aimed at providing refugee children with access to education and sports programmes.
Another is a programme supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is building skills and capacity among the returning population in South Sudan.
"We cannot do this alone. But with your support UNHCR can begin to turn the tide, giving refugees hope for the future and new opportunities for their families and their communities," said Guterres.
Please do not forget the homeless in America they too are refugees. They are our internal displaced. Only three years ago the numbers of American displaced was astonishing.
About 3.5 million US residents (about 1% of the population), including 1.35 million children, have been homeless for a significant period of time. Over 37,000 homeless individuals (including 16,000 children) stay in shelters in New York every night. This information was gathered by the Urban Institute, but actual numbers might be higher.In my own home community I see more persons living on the streets each day. As I read their signs, speak with a few, I am forever reminded, every man, woman, and child is my brother, my sister, and could be me or perhaps you. I trust I cannot forget we are all connected. if one man is poor we all suffer. If I contribute to the passing of another person through my ignorance, neglect, or through battle, I will take blame.
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
~ John Donne
References for World Refugee Day 2007 . . .