by Fr. Shay Cullen
The bombs keep falling and the barrels fall from the sky and burst with a massive boom and searing, burning flames consume the men, women and children. The chlorine chemical poison spreads among the ruins of Allepo.
The people are dead, others are suffering in agony, the children are screaming. The White Helmet Rescuers rush to dig out the bodies of the dead and the wounded. The paramedics rush to wash them down, give them oxygen masks to breath, if they have any. Others half-buried in the collapsed ruins of their houses, far from help, choke to death, scarred or maimed.
They are starved, surrounded, killed one by one by the Assad snipers. The UN relief convoy of desperately needed food is bombed and burnt to ashes, seven more died. They flee the horror of violent death and hunger as the mayhem rained down on them. They are the Syrian refugees of war, and they flee the violence and indescribable cruelty. Who will give them welcome?
In other parts of Syria, the towns and villages are reduced to ruins as Isis moves closer to take over the villages and towns and impose their cruel regime of torture. Soon the chopping off of hands, arms and heads, the summary execution will begin. The rape and abuse of children, boys and girls, men and women follows. The sex slavery of thousands of people of this Isis regime is well known and the people flee. They are the refugees begging for help, asking for a place of refuge and safety, non-violence and peace.
They drive anything to escape, when all vehicles are gone, they leave everything they owned, they run and exhausted they walk through deserts, over mountains and hills in a desperate effort to escape the vicious retaliation to come.
They, once respectable, educated professional people are now the desperate refugees. They are the victims of the curse of Isis. They are the victims of Assad, of rebels, of jihadists, of soldiers of every nationality, color and creed and victims of apathy and indifference, selfishness and xenophobia.
They are the victims of rival nations fighting for influence and power. Can the nations so disunited meeting in New York pretending to be United Nations solve the greatest displacement of people since World War II?
There are 65 million people displaced in the world today. Eleven million people in Syria have been killed or forced to flee and where have they fled to and found welcome? Believe it or not, the truth is that the Middle-Eastern countries have sheltered most refugees. There are 4.7 million refugees in the countries neighboring Syria. Turkey has taken in almost 2.7 million. The tiny nation of Lebanon has welcomed more than one million. Europe has taken in 1.3 million and they call it a crisis and the refugees, according to the extremist right, must be stopped and deported. No welcome there.
The children have suffered the most. Eleven thousand children lose their homes, schools and playgrounds every day. Half of all refugees are children under 18. They face the blasts and bullets, rockets and mortars and all consuming fires. They suffer burns all over their bodies from the napalm-like brimstone that is rained upon them from the gasoline-fueled barrel bombs. The black-hearted regime has unleashed a violence that is a horrific war crime. It is a regime of unfettered power and oppression that has, with its allies, poured out hatred and the fury of all-out war, suffering and death on thousands of children.
Many have fled to the European countries and found only a little welcome but more and more rejection and exclusion. The extremists on the political right are there to block and deny them help and relief, rest and peace.
The caring, welcoming and valiant people who make up the thousands of volunteers who have welcomed and reached out to help the refugees are the voice of justice and hope. But they are not winning the political ground. The far right groups are growing in political clout and are stirring up hatred against the refugees and asylum seekers. Some more extreme are burning down their shelters.
Is there really a refugee crises in Europe? In fact, 86 percent of the world’s refugees are being sheltered in low and middle income countries. In all of Europe only 1.8 million refugees made it across the borders. Most were accepted in Germany but the far right wants them excluded.
The numbers seeking asylum as per population tells the story. In every 100,000 Hungarians, only 1,800 refugees claimed asylum in 2015. Sweden followed close behind with 1,667 asylum applications per 100,000 Swedes.
The figure for Germany was 587 per 100,000 population and for the UK it was 60 applications only. They have a tightly closed door. The EU average was 260 asylum seekers in every 100,000 of the population. The population of Europe is 743.1 million people. The number of refugees seeking asylum are but a few drops in the ocean.
In the United States, 10,000 refugees have been admitted and President Obama plans to admit another 10,000 refugees. Canada has accepted 30,000 and will take in more.
It is the rich materialistic secular Europe that is growing more racist. It is a small but growing part of society living more in the lowest selfish strata of human existence. They cannot look and see the other and have dialogue and reach out and share their bounty with the needy refugees. Unlike the those in Europe with a welcome and that we need more of.
The most immediate solution is to make peace in the Middle East and end the war. In the meantime, the refugees need a home and have a right to a temporary place to stay and find peace and a welcome.
Fr. Shay Cullen, SSC is based in the Philippines. He is the founder of PREDA, an organization in the Philippines with a range of social justice, peace, and environmental programs.