I’m sure most of you have seen the tragic pictures of a little 3-year-old boy, Alan Kurdi whose body was found on the shore of a Turkish beach. He was trying to escape to Europe with his family from violence in Syria.
These people are not migrants as some of the media (CNN, BBC, DW, France 24, FOX) and state governments (European Union, U.S.) label them. They are refugees. And there is a big difference between the two terms.
The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has stated in that regard, “Yes, there is a difference, and it does matter. The two terms have different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations.” A migrant is someone who moves to a new land for better work opportunities, while a refugee is someone who is forced to leave his/her land in order to escape death, war, natural disaster and/or persecutions.
The parents of Alan Kurdi did not get on that smugglers’ boat out of good life but it was a cry of desperation. As the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire wrote: “You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
Over the Labor Day weekend, a group of religious leaders, representatives of non-profit organizations, and regular concerned citizens gathered at a town hall meeting in Berlin, CT, to discuss the refugee crisis in Europe and to ask what we can do as a Connecticut community to help those refugees who are fleeing wars.
One of the biggest goals that we came up with was to get 10 cities in Connecticut that each would sponsor 10 refugee families with a goal to host 100 families in our state.
There were many concerned citizens who volunteered to host some of those refugee families even in their own homes. Non-profit and interfaith religious organizations agreed to provide as much resources as they can. That is the beauty of our humanity.
But most importantly we need to involve our city governments to agree to host those families since the process of hosting refugee families has to be approved by our government.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “First, we are challenged to rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”