Today, November 10th, 2008, bloggers around the world are posting about issues surrounding the plight of refugees. As we writers sit at our computers, composing thoughts to provoke the thinking and compassion of others, millions of men, women, and children on several continents fight for their lives and their rights to a safe home, free from fear and persecution.
For as long as human beings have engaged in battle and warfare, displaced persons have wandered the earth in search of a home. Recently, tens of thousands of refugees within the Democratic Republic of Congo have fled refugee camps due to increased fighting and direct attacks on refugee camps, possibly due to ethnic or religious differences. The Congolese people have suffered for decades, and there is no end in sight to their continued persecution and internal displacement.
The main global organization vis-a-vis the coordination of refugee protection is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and the American Refugee Committee are all committed to protecting refugees and providing relief and financial assistance that can mean all the difference for displaced persons struggling to maintain their health, safety and economic well-being under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Similarly, organizations such as Doctors Without Borders manage to provide essential medical care to individuals and families suffering from acute injuries, untreated disease, psychological trauma, and the effects of poverty and deprivation.
Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Georgia, Darfur, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other troubled regions amount to an enormous population of world citizens who require medical care, advocacy, protection, shelter, clothing, food, and a means by which to make a living and educate their children, many of whom have never known a normal life free from displacement and suffering.
It is our collective responsibility to support the organizations that provide services and advocacy to refugees throughout the world. It is also our individual responsibility to pressure our elected officials to take action and to push for legislation that enhances the work of the lead refugee agencies that bear the brunt of the Herculean labor involved in supporting the millions of displaced people in need of essential services.
War, when waged by any country, almost ubiquitously creates refugees, and such battles frequently stir up---or are originally caused by---religious, ethnic and cultural differences between groups that fuel the fires of hatred and genocide that we have seen all too often in the current century and the last. While much of humanity has called for a universal end to war, there is currently no end in sight, and it is thus incumbent for humanity as a whole to work collectively to assuage the effects of war, racism, hatred, and violence.
Just as it has been said that none of us are truly free while others are enslaved, it can also be said that none of us are ever truly living in peace and safety until all are living in peace and safety. Perhaps a day will come when the plight of refugees will be an historic anomaly. However, the 21st century, indeed in its infancy, has already offered us a myriad of evidence that war, displacement, and genocide are still realities necessitating a powerful communal response.
Yes, today is indeed a day for blogging about refugees. But when the day is done and the articles are read and digested, it is then that the message truly must take wing---and we all begin to take action.