By Vincent Lyn
Sometimes I feel truly tormented!
For I can say unequivocally, I’m one of the very fortunate souls. Having loving and caring parents who not only afforded me the best education money can buy, but did everything they could to see that my life was better than theirs. I mean isn’t that what all parents want for their children? I’ve also had a life of boundless travel and success in professions that have always been my passion. Even the past 18+ months dealing with the ravages of a global pandemic my continuous successes have risen leaps and bounds.
And it is because of this that it makes me feel tormented. The people that I aid, who because we’ve met and I know their names I cannot ever forget them. Many friends are struggling to survive in Uganda on one bowl of porridge a day. They are not worried about dying from COVID-19 but from starvation. Colleagues in Lebanon who’ve lost 80% off their wealth because of devaluation of the currency. There are friends in Syria who after suffering from ten years of war, if that wasn’t bad enough. Now to be completely stripped of their right to work because of continual lockdowns, hyper-inflation, days without electricity, the list is endless. So many I know are barely surviving, wondering if they will see the sun come up.
For those of us who are not refugees — nor internally displaced people, migrants, asylum seekers — it is easy to ignore their plight involving fears of harm and death, traveling long and dangerous unknown paths, hunger, thirst, carrying the uncertainty of not knowing if a safe and decent home will ever be found, and being confronted with walls that shout-out to them: Not welcomed! Go back where you came from! We don’t want you!
Instead, let’s genuinely try to understand their misery by turning to our imagination. Let’s try to imagine ourselves in their shoes.
So, just imagine in the middle of the night you are awakened to the explosive sounds of war just outside of your town. Hoping that the fighting would not come to you and your family, you realize it has arrived and is quickly approaching.
Just imagine that you received a text message from a Middle East terrorist Islamist group warning that if you don’t convert from Christianity to Islam you will be decapitated.
Just imagine that a Central American drug gang has threatened to rape and mutilate your teenage daughter if your 10-year-old son does not join their gang.
Just imagine getting news that Nigerian Fulani herdsmen have just burned the neighboring village to the ground, along with all of its farm fields, and that they are heading towards your village.
Just imagine in your extremely poor economically underdeveloped country that no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot find a job to earn enough money to feed your family.
Just imagine that you are a Rohingya Muslim living in Myanmar, and that the Myanmar government insists that you and your people have no right to citizenship, freedom of movement, state education, nor civil service jobs.
Just imagine that it is no longer possible to grow any crops on the land of your small subsistence farm because it is bone-dry from the effects of climate change.
What can you do? What will you do? In all of these real-life scenarios you choose the best possible chance of survival: Hoping against all hope you begin the very long, difficult and perilous journey to a country somewhere, anywhere that will maybe welcome you and your family.
Despite the pandemic, a record 82 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict, human rights violations, persecution, extreme poverty and climate change according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
According to the UNHCR, the tiny nation of Lebanon is host to the largest number of refugees relative to its national population — where one in every six persons is a refugee. That’s equivalent to the U.S. taking in 55 million refugees! But instead, according to the Refugee Processing Center, in fiscal year 2020, the U.S. resettled only 11,814 refugees. That is unconscionable! What happened to the USA, the country I remember always looking out for the less fortunate, seems to be a relic of the past? So I ask you to please email and call your two U.S. senators and congressperson (Capitol switchboard number: 202–224–3121) urging them to robustly increase funding to poorer nations like Lebanon who are struggling to host millions of refugees. And urge them to petition President Biden to authorize for this year at least 110,000 refugees as was done in past years.
Lastly, today we face an unprecedented existential threat brought about by the climate crisis. More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods and communities. As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe. According to scientists, we have until 2030 to stop climate change, after which human conditions will be under several threats. Yet, in 2020 we had a world conference in Madrid on climate change, which ended in nothing. Not only that, but since the beginning of the last decade, there has been a singular change of the relations of politicians with climate.
The German watch institute presented the results of the Global Climate Risk Index 2020 during COP25 in Madrid. According to this analysis, based on the impacts of extreme weather events and the socio-economic losses they cause, Japan, the Philippines and Germany are the most affected places by climate change today. How ironic considering the apocalyptic flooding that has erupted unabated in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Iran, Turkey, China and Philippines this past week July 20.
We live in a world that is reactive instead of being proactive. COVID-19 was a wake up for sure as so many first world nations were completely asleep thinking they were somehow immune and safe from the impending disaster. Are we going to do exactly the same when it comes to our climate and environment? It sure seems so. Politicians only react when it’s too damn late.
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts