Why UA students should care about the Syrian refugee crisis

Our time here at The University of Alabama is defined by a myriad of experiences: the major(s) we pursue, the relationships we build, the research we do, the organizations we join, the football games we attend. Although each of us is pulled in a million different directions as we each seek our ideal college experience, I think there are common goals of a college education, including exposing ourselves to the different ideas and backgrounds of our peers as well as entering into a relationship with our community, our nation and our world. It is my last point, entering into a relationship with the world, which I find to be the most challenging, simply because it is hard to regularly remember to ponder the events affecting people you’ve never met in countries you know nothing about. It is even harder to stay informed when doing so is painful and leaves you with a feeling of hopelessness, and I think that is how many of us may feel about the current refugee crisis in Syria and surrounding countries.

We may feel numb to the senseless violence and confusing politics that have been going on for the past four year – and I don’t blame you. It is heart-wrenching to read about children like 3-year-old Aylan, whose body was found washed up on a Turkish beach, or about parents finding their children’s dismembered bodies amidst bombed rubble. It is hard to imagine that there are an estimated 4.3 million refugees fleeing Syria (to put it in perspective, that is 42 Bryant-Denny Stadiums or a little less than the population of AL). But just because something is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

We cannot close ourselves off to human suffering. Period. Real life for the majority of people in the world does not look like our picturesque quad, and just because the refugee crisis isn’t happening in Tuscaloosa or in the U.S. doesn't mean we shouldn't worry ourselves with the pain of learning about it. A common feeling among students is that we are powerless to help Syrian refugees, but merely reading the stories of refugees helps because you are taking a moment to engage and empathize. Imagine if your family was in the same situation. How would you feel? How would you act? In making ourselves imagine the difficulty of refugees’ situations and how desperate they must feel, we feel compassion and leave space within ourselves for action.

This space, however small, may be what motivates you to donate time or money to help our fellow Syrians. This space allows room for building a stronger relationship with our world and allows for greater participation within it.

As the educated few, our privilege of attending college comes with responsibilities, one of which is to be informed. Let’s not be afraid to touch the pain of our Syrian brothers and sisters and allow ourselves to be moved by their stories. Let’s not be remembered as a generation of bystanders, but as a generation of action-seekers. Let’s each do our part, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to help Syrian refugees. 

Our actions, collectively are significant.

Ruth Bishop is a senior majoring in biology and Spanish. Her column runs biweekly.

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