Yesterday Europe woke up to the reality of what’s happening in our waters.
The sight of a little boy washed up on Turkish shores, captured our attention in a way that a million high detail articles never could.
It was a moment even the most right wing newspapers sobered up from their racist stupors and saw the international refugee crisis for what it is.
It’s little boys and little girls and mums and dads, grannies and grandpas, forced to leave homes and jobs and schools and friends and the entire sense of security they’ve always known.
And they don’t know what’s ahead of them.
Someone offers them the opportunity to leave the dusty refugee camps, to take their kids somewhere that has decent schools and job prospects, and they take it.
“It has to be better than this,” they think.
The Syrian refugee families we know all have friends or family members who are considering this perilous journey.
We tell them about the news articles, the risks, the many people who drown and never make it.
They say, “we know it’s dangerous, but what other option do they have?”
How do you answer that question?
After a while the idea of getting in a boat that stands some chance of getting to somewhere that just might be better than here starts to sound good.
“Sweden is beautiful. I’ve heard it’s the most beautiful place in the world. Almost as nice as Syria used to be.”
“I hear the people are so friendly in Britain. I have an uncle there.”
“I want Ahmed to be able to go to a good school, and to have a future.”
The mythology around the countries in Europe builds. People without hope look for every shred that they can find. For many, Europe or America, Canada or Australia seem like the closest chance.
For many, right now, these countries really are the closest chance at a future that’s safe and far away from their crumbling homes.
Our governments and NGOs can’t manage this immense task by themselves. They need us as ordinary citizens to get involved.
So, What can I do today?
We thought we would compile a list of ways that we can take action. It’s not exhaustive, but it should get you started…
Anyone can make a donation to the UNHCR, or smaller organisations like Hope & Trust, who work with assisting refugees in the resettlement process.
At the moment the UNHCR budget is running so low that many of the refugee families we’ve met outside of the camps have had their food budgets cut.
For those of us who pray, the 24-7 Prayer network have organised a week of prayer. You can sign up for a 1 hour time slot on their website.
In the UK
Before today’s good news that Britain will be receiving ‘thousands’ more refugees, we were going to ask you to sign a petition. Instead we’ll look at some more practical ways that you can be involved with these amazing people.
Get in touch with UK based organisations like Bridges for Communities, who work at building understanding between people of different cultures.
Check out this extensive set of links on the Independent Online.
This list gives some good suggestions of NGOs that help refugees and have a connection to Sweden.
Among them are Medicines Sans Frontiers who do sea rescue missions, as well as working in the ports, where the refugees arrive first. you can donate here.
Please feel free to contact us if you want to discuss this more.