Do you ever wonder where you are going to eat your next meal or where you will sleep tonight? I have never experienced that fear, but it often enters my mind these days. I woke up a few weeks ago to a desperate message from one of our partners in Lebanon begging for any help we could offer. She told me, “The need is beyond our imagination.”
A winter storm dubbed Storm Norma hit the country, wreaking havoc on ill-equipped refugee camps. Amidst freezing temperatures and snowy conditions, our partner found herself distributing fuel so the refugees could heat their tents. While out, she ran into little Jaber, who she had previously provided with a hat and coat. Yet she found him without either, shivering in the elements.
Upon investigation, she discovered that his mother had sold the hat and coat to feed their family of nine.
Jaber’s family was forced to leave their country in order to escape the civil war in Syria, thus becoming refugees. They are one family among millions.
Rarely does a week go by without some discussion in the news about refugees. “According to the UNHCR, there are now almost 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, around 1% of the world’s population—the highest number in modern history. The number of refugees has steadily increased since 1951 but has jumped dramatically in the last 10 years. That’s mostly because of the Syrian civil war which began in 2011 and has since forced millions to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries and in Europe.”
If you are like most of us, reports about the plight of refugees do not affect you the way they used to. Refugee fatigue or “compassion fatigue—the idea that many individuals only have a limited amount of time in which they can express sympathy for the plights of others” is widespread and a cause for concern.
Truthfully, the world is tired of hearing about Syrian refugees and their plight. The host countries are tired of hosting them. The donors are tired of giving. The relief organizations are tired of providing. Therefore, news outlets do not cover their sad stories anymore. In fact, they prefer to publish articles that use “inflammatory language to describe those seeking refuge.” Thus, we have lost interest in helping because “according to some scholars, . . . we simply can’t feel compassion for large numbers”. The problem has gotten so big, it is a blur for most people.
So if we cannot feel compassion for large numbers, what do we do?
Mother Teresa said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act.”
We must reconsider our emphasis on the millions and sheer magnitude of the crisis and refocus on the individuals. We must focus on Jaber, and his plight to survive and grow amidst precarious circumstances.
I hope my words will urge you to consider how drastically different your life could look in this moment. Your contributions to Tying Vines provide Jaber and other children like him with food, medical care, education, and a warm place to sleep.