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Marking World Refugee Day

How Do People Look at Refugees?

Who is Relieving the Other’s Suffering?

But, rather than transfixed by the spectacle of their suffering, how can we see them more like ourselves – human beings with families, needs, plans, and dreams? What roles can we play in lessening the pain of these travesties?

Firstly, we can look to countries that are getting it right. In the less developed world, we can look to countries like Pakistan which, over the last 40 years, absorbed millions of Afghani refugees—the second largest refugee group after Syria—and without much fanfare I might add.

In the spirit of solidarity, Since the 1970’s they’ve welcomed their brothers and sisters in Islam regardless of how hard it might make things, and even gave land to newly arrived refugees, as well.

Is Empathy the Answer?

Will merely understanding their problems, or being hooked into a virtual reality machine, or playing a refugee “game” where you are able to virtually experience a migrant or refugee camp–going make you more compassionate to the cause?

Paul Bloom, a Professor of Psychology at Yale University and author of “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion,” explained to Lauren Parater that when it comes to refugees, “Virtual reality is worse than useless.

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You put them in the shoes of the physical environment of these people, for example, a refugee camp, which could lead to the dangerous delusion that this is what it is all about,” he argues.

Porter explains, “It is less about being in a rickety boat for a while, but the mental suffering one faces as a refugee, something that often spans decades, which cannot be appreciated or prompted by these tools. The emotions associated with their experience of becoming a refugee is not engendered by such simulations.”

How can one possibly simulate decades, or even a lifetime, of poverty, trauma, abuse, institutionalized persecution, and systemic oppression? 

We Can Redirect Our Gaze

There are those of us with the time and means to help refugees and asylum seekers. While we may have never even had a taste of a truly hard life, our conscience still pushes us on to help others.

Albeit not as passionately as those who have made their way through the pain to come out the other side and do not want others to suffer through what they did to get somewhat free… but with sincerity. 

Educate yourself about the scope of the problem. Befriend individual refugees and asylum seekers whenever you can. The more you talk to them and understand both their backstory and their struggles in the here and now, the better able you will be to help them overcome the obstacles in their way.

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About Janet Kozak
Janet Kozak is a content strategist who helps businesses grow their brand with creative copywriting and content marketing. When she’s not writing and designing, you can find her indulging in masala fries or elbow deep in scraps of paper creating her one-of-a-kind art collages. Meet Janet and get ready to grow your business at http://janetkozak.com/