Protect the refugees: 33.3 million displaced by war
Forced to flee their home countries because of war and conflict, a record 33.3 million people worldwide were displaced in 2013, according to a United Nations and Norwegian Refugee Council report that was released yesterday. Having trouble visualizing 33.3 million people? Just picture the entire populations of New York and Illinois together and you get about that.
A little more than 8 million of those people fled their homelands in 2013—many of them women and children. It was also the deadliest year for migrants on record with an estimated 7,000 of them perishing at sea trying to reach a safe harbor. These reports keep coming and coming. Syria alone accounts for 3.5 million of those 8 million from last year—a Syrian family fleeing every 60 seconds.
The U.N. and Norwegian report is a reminder that war affects everyone. Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian agency, said, “These are people in absolute crisis. They are the most vulnerable of humankind.” These refugees have already suffered much loss: their homes, possessions, livelihoods, and sometimes even their family members. We have a shared responsibility to protect these vulnerable people from further harm.
What we need to do is look for peacemaking solutions. We must reassess the support our inflated military budget and its spending priorities that allow wars to continue. We must advocate with our bishops for the protection of refugees and continue to welcome the stranger within our borders. Refugee displacement is a worldwide issue and we must work together to eliminate this suffering of all—especially the most vulnerable.