Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I am a Refugee

the front courtyard of my desert retreat house

Yesterday as I sat in my courtyard and looked out at the beautiful mountains, I thought about how "lucky" I am to live in such a beautiful house -  in such an awesome location. I was suddenly struck by a thought: "How would I feel if my wife and I (and our dogs) were suddenly forced to abandon all we own in a moment's notice and flee for our safety. What would it be like to leave behind our beautiful house, our meditation garden, our furniture, pictures, memories - pack up and leave with no hope we would ever see any of it again?   

As I sat in my courtyard, I realized that this is exactly what 7 million Syrians have had to do over the past few years. In a moment's notice millions of people suddenly became homeless refugees, abandoning everything they owned, fleeing for their safety into a vast unknown future in foreign lands.

I can only imagine the sense of loss, the pain, and the suffering those refugees must be experiencing. 

For the past week we have been hearing a great deal about Syria -  story after story about a thousand people killed by gas, story after story about the prospect of retaliatory military action. And while the world-wide media have been reporting about the Syrian refugees, that story has not received anywhere near the attention that has been paid to possible rocket attacks. 

Yesterday, I watched a news report about the Syrian refugees. The story received more prominent attention because the number of refugees who have fled their homeland has now hit the two million mark.  Two million Syrians have abandoned their homes and property seeking refuge in foreign countries, and there are another five million homeless refugees who still remain in their country -  a grand total of seven million Syrian refugees.

Yesterday the United Nations announced that the Syrian refugee situation is "one of the worst human disasters in history."  The U.N. also noted that we can't yet imagine the long-term effects of it all since over one million "children" are numbered among the refugees- traumatized, out of school and deprived of a continuing education. 

Until yesterday I just had no idea of the scope and the depth of this disaster. I watched yesterday's news report in stunned silence, asking myself, "How could I have been so oblivious to "one of the worst human disasters in history?" I wondered, "Was I so unaware because the news was paying so much attention to military responses and so little attention to the refugees? Or perhaps the story was out there all along, but I was just disconnected to it?" 

I live in a beautiful house in an awesome location. I live in a safe place with plenty of food and lots of support around me.  I have never been forced to flee for my life or to abandon everything I own. Since incredible loss and suffering of millions of people is happening in a far away land, I am not affected by it; and so it is easy to be disconnected from it. However, my lack of connection and my indifference to this unprecedented human disaster flies in the face of everything I believe and has thus served as somewhat of a wake-up call for me. 

There are no foreign lands. There are no different others. We are interdependent. I am not a separate independent self- I am a web of relationship.  

Chuang Tzu, one of the "fathers" of Taoism once said:

The universe and I came into being together.
and i and everything therein, are

I have fled for my safety. I abandoned and lost everything I have ever owned. I live in a foreign land in a tent with no idea as to what will happen to me and my family in the days to come. A generation of my children have been traumatized. 

 I am a refugee.



  1. Now that the wake up call has happened, how do we respond? Is simply knowing about the human tragedy enough?

  2. You have just asked the million dollar question. I think it must begin with awareness and a sense of being connected to the tragedy.

    I also don't think it's enough that we pray for them.

    I'd love some suggestions as to what a next step is.

  3. I know a ridiculous next step is to attack and kill people to stop the people you are trying to kill from killing more people.

    My next step suggestion is an intervention for the leaders of the Syrian government and the opposition. We send 100 of our greatest problem solving minds to Syria and knock on their front door. We force them to meet with us and we do not leave until we have resolution. If the US wants to be the world police they should act like it. When we have gang wars in our communities within the US where people are getting slain in the streets, we don't go in and start bombing and shooting the gang members. We call them to the table and work out peace agreements.

    War and continued violence is an old, lazy thinking and ineffective solution.

    If the leaders refuse to come to the table and talk with us the ramification should come from NATO by way of a unified, global separation that goes beyond embargo. The pain should be that the world cuts them off from thriving as a government. We should use all of the money that we would have spent on military action to feed and care for the people of Syria until the government and rebel factions realize their is only one option.....come to an agreement!

  4. Excellent comment. Amen to everything you say Steven.

    The only one who even came close to suggesting an international peace summit was Jimmy Carter, who has been basically ignored.

    I hope others who read this blog will talk about your suggestions,