GEL Talk

I recently recorded a GEL talk for my school (a TEDx style presentation) about the refugee crisis. Please click on the link to see the video!!

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4.1 miles

It’s only 4.1 miles from Lesbos to Turkey. A short distance. People run 4.1 miles as a warm up. But over 226 refugees have died so far in 2017 trying to cross the Mediterranean.

So what are we doing about it? Instead of welcoming these refugees with open arms, taking them into our community and providing them with safety and security, Trump banned them. He went against the very principles of America-being a welcoming place for all. How could someone be so narrow minded and cruel? Honestly, I wonder that almost every day now. I find myself signing so many more petitions, calling my representatives, writing “strongly worded emails”to them. I marched in the Women’s March proudly sporting my “Nasty Woman” shirt (benefitting Planned Parenthood), my rainbow pin and “y’all means all” pin and chanted that my rights are not up for grabs. After someone stole my Hillary Clinton sticker from my car, I slapped a new one on. I bought more pins that benefitted the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. I never imagined a world where I had to fight back against a world that doesn’t support myself or my beliefs. Every single day I feel like I have to stand up to a government that, quite frankly, doesn’t care. And it breaks my heart.

Tonight the Oscars honored “The White Helmets” (discussed in a previous post “to save a life is to save all of mankind”). I suggest that everyone watches the documentary. And buys a couple boxes of kleenex before. Another great documentary that was nominated is “4.1 miles”. The 4.1 miles between Lesbos and Turkey. That documentary broke my heart. I remembered my feelings as I silently walked through the “life jacket necropolis” in Lesbos, realizing that some of the life jackets might have belonged to the refugees shown in the documentary, those that made it and those that lost their lives. The documentary perfectly and beautifully shows the chaotic mix that goes into saving lives. It shows the real people behind the scenes who go out into storms to rescue and save the lives of those trying to cross the 4.1 miles. Attached is a link to view the short documentary “4.1 miles”.

 

Reflections

The following post was written by my friend Sara Catherine about her opinions on a talk given at our school regarding the refugee crisis:

Hi! My name is Sara Catherine Cook and I have had the pleasure of researching and learning about the refugee crisis for my Latin IV class, as we are currently making a short film about how it relates to the Aeneid. I just want to talk about some of the things that have really stuck with me about this whole situation.

One of the things about this whole crisis that really sunk in is how barren some of these camps in Greece are. Zoë in her presentation at my school mentioned that many of the refugees have to steal materials, and not out of malicious intent, but becuase there are not enough resources for them to even live in decent conditions. They do not flee their country because they want to, but out of necessity and when they reach a safer area, they are still deprived of some simple things that they really need.

The second thing that has really stuck with me since hearing multiple presentations on the topic is the amount of danger people put themselves in making this journey to Greece or Italy. When traveling to Greece, the chances of a refugee dying or missing is about one in four hundred, which shows that it is incredibly dangerous to even cross into Greece, but what is even more shocking is that the chance of a refugee dying or missing when going to Italy is one in fourty one. We all sit here complaining about our day to day lives, when these regular people are putting their lives in an incredible amount of danger just to protect themselves and their families.

Another thing that I have thought about repeatedly recently is the amount of violence in Aleppo, as told by Zabia, a women who has recently come to the U.S. from her home there. She told us about many dangerous things that happened to her, a completely normal woman trying to take care of her family. She mentioned that there was a bomb that landed in her home, and that every single day she was unsure if her daughters’ school would be bombed. It seems crazy to me to have to worry about the safety of your children’s lives when they go to school everyday, but this was the reality for Zabia when she lived in Aleppo just a few months ago. She also mentioned that when traveling she had to hold her daughters underneath the seat when gunfire was heard. Again it seems crazy and so foreign to me to imagine having to duck from gunfire while traveling with children and other civilians.

The last thing I want to mention is the thing that I have thought of almost daily since we had the opportunity to speak with these incredible people. My teacher, Mr. Crowe, asked Ali, Zabia’s brother, how often he thought of home or his friends and family from home. He told us that he only knew where about thirty percent of his friends or family are, and that seventy percent of these important people in his life have either died or their location and whether they are alive or dead is unknown to him. When he told our small class this, my jaw almost hit the floor because it is so shocking to me to think of losing that many important people in one’s life in more or less a year. These people have lost their home, many of their possessions, and more than half of the people they care about.

These few things have stuck with me and probably will for the rest of my life and I hope they stick with each person reading this because no one deserves for this to happen to them. I do not know how to fix this problem, but there are simple things we can all do, and one of them I think Zoë is doing a great job of right now. To end this I just want to urge each person to share this with those around them and make an effort to donate some of their time or money to helping these people because when you think of it, we are all the same in more ways than you think.

Interview with Eva Almeshal

My perspective on the situation is unique. I’m a Greek-Americna who had the privilege of going to Lesbos over the summer. My friend, Eva Almeshal, offers a different perspective. With the world as crazy as it is right now, it is important to hear other perspectives and other opinions. Eva has moved back and forth from the US to Kuwait, and I am so thankful for her willingness to contribute and for her kind heart. Eva consistently raises awareness about the issue and has recently started a campaign called “#paint4peace”. Please follow her movement on Instagram!

Questions:

1)Where are you from/what is your cultural background?
2)Do you view the refugee crisis as a Greek crisis, European or World crisis?
3) How has the crisis affected you?
4) What do you think caused the crisis?
5) In a perfect world, what could be done?
6)Who do you think should take the lead in the crisis?
7) Should the US get involved?

Responses:

1) I was born in the U.S., and then spent the first part of my life in Kuwait, where my dad and his family are from. Since as far back as I can remember, my life has been “half and half” – spent back and forth between living in the U.S. and living in Kuwait. The majority of my time has been spent living in the U.S., though.
2) The refugee crisis is very much a world crisis, in my opinion – aside from any political reasons, I believe that anything that affects a portion of humanity ultimately affects us all as a whole. We are living on this planet as one race – humans. I don’t believe we can ever truly be free until we are all free, collectively.
3) The crisis has mostly affected me emotionally and energetically, which is, of course, not even worth mentioning in comparison to how it has affected the millions of refugees who experience unimaginable suffering on a daily basis. However, on a lighter note – it has also affected me by inspiring me to be a better human, to BE the change I wish to see in the world, and by spreading awareness of this dire situation to others who may not be as educated (or perhaps completely ignorant) on the subject.
4) (I could probably write an entire book to answer this question…ha! So I’ll try to summarize to the best of my ability) The crisis can be traced back to political, economic, social, and even environmental reasons – however, the driving force behind all of these is, of course, political. Make no mistake – this crisis did not develop overnight, nor did it happen by accident. Leaders who have been involved in decisions of foreign relations/affairs have always been fully aware of the catastrophic outcomes that would inevitably ensue. I believe that in order to pinpoint the root of this crisis, one would have to delve deep into history – specifically, the history of imperialistic nations who have continuously gained more traction and momentum in their pursuit of power. I know that may seem like it’s taking it too far back – but I don’t think one would be able to just say, “well this crisis happened because of x” – that “x” has a history as well, and as you explore that history, you find yourself “falling down the rabbit hole”, so to speak, of imperialist agendas (which are all intricately tied to organizations including, but not limited to, the IMF, World Bank, and the Council on Foreign Relations). There is a very precisely-designed method to the madness the world is currently facing and experiencing – and in order to fully explain that, a dissertation would likely be needed. The shortest answer I can give is simply that the world’s political systems are fundamentally and structurally designed to oppress the people – whether directly or indirectly.
5) In a perfect world, world leaders would not be interested in the accumulation of power, but rather, creating a foundation upon which humanity would able to effectively sustain and maintain peaceful, inter-dependent relationships with each other and with the planet. In a perfect world, there would be a fair distribution of wealth, education, and essential life resources. In a perfect world, this crisis would never have existed in the first place. In a perfect world, all people would love and live peacefully and collectively.
6) The lead should be taken by countries with the economic, social, and humanitarian resources needed to alleviate this crisis. Sadly, those countries are the ones taking the least amount of action and accepting the least number of refugees – which makes sense, considering that the majority of those countries are the reasons behind why this crisis exists and continues to get worse. It has been mostly poor, overpopulated countries who have taken the lead – some by choice, others by force.
7) Unfortunately, I have a very cynical perspective when it comes to U.S. involvement in anything whatsoever. Historically speaking, it seems that the U.S. has the opposite effect of the “Midas touch” – where everything we touch seems to disintegrate or get destroyed on some level. Perhaps, in a very small number of instances, this has been an unintended consequence – but historical facts will prove that we have very clear, outlined intentions in our actions and involvement regarding foreign affairs. The U.S. has already been heavily involved in the creation of this crisis in a myriad of ways – but most notably, by funding and training “terrorist” groups in an effort to “fight terrorism” (if that sounds incredibly counterproductive, that’s because it is, and only serves to further their own agenda). This propaganda-fueled “war on terror” has been the basis for many of our covert and publicized military actions, which has only worsened the current crisis.

15094459_10154733920094730_3646014419342617990_nA picture from the paint4peace instagram account.

“To save a life is to save all of humanity”

The title of this article is the motto of the White Helmets.

I would first like to encourage everyone to register to vote!! I have a link on my blog that provides more information about voter registration. Not everyone has the opportunity to vote, and we need to exercise this right. Do not sit out on voting in this election. Not voting or voting for a third party is a vote for the opposing political party. I could not be more excited to be able to vote for Hillary Clinton in this election. Please look at her website for more information about her stance on issues, her campaign or how to support (https://www.hillaryclinton.com).

I would also like to extend a special thank you to the United Nations Association USA-Greater Birmingham Chapter for sharing my work and my blog on their Facebook page. I am so extremely passionate about this cause and any support is so valued and appreciated. I ask everyone who reads this to share this blog with their friends and families. This war is not going to stop anytime soon. The refugees will not stop coming anytime soon. This crisis will continue, and we need to help. Please go to https://www.facebook.com/UNAUSAGreaterBirmingham/ to learn more about UNA-USA and read their post about my work.

In late September, fires broke out at Moria, causing approximately 4,400 refugees to flee. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but unrest and frustration has risen among the refugees. They are uncertain about their future. Their living conditions are miserable. They do not know if they will have a life outside of the war.Thankfully, Pikpa took in some of the refugees. They have provided them with shelter, food, and clothing. But most importantly they have provided them with support and care. Please donate to Pikpa. Now more than ever they need our help. They do not have enough resources to sustain the refugees, so please help them.

I just watched the documentary on Netflix titled: “The White Helmets”. This documentary offers a unique look into the war in Syria, and those who are saving lives. The White Helmets are a group of unarmed civilizations who perform rescue missions to help those in need. When tragedy strikes, the White Helmets rush in to save lives. More than 50 bombs and mortars a day hit innocent neighborhoods, killing or injuring innocent civilians. These bombings do not care who they kill. They will target anyone and anything. These heroes risk their lives and everything to save someone.

This documentary broke my heart. Truly, I cried throughout the entire film. It breaks my heart to see such carnage. It breaks my heart because it will not stop. The war is not over, and the war will not be over soon. Every person deserves to fulfill their dreams and goals in life. And this war takes that away. It strips away their life for no reason. How can anyone support a war that takes away the lives of such beautiful souls? How can anyone stand by when children are being murdered daily because they happen to live in the wrong city? It breaks my heart to know that many people do not see this war as their problem. This war is our problem. These are our brothers and sisters that are being killed. These are citizens of the world who share the same hopes and dreams for themselves. They also want to live a life full of happiness. This is why I continue to write. I am trying to do what I can to help. I am trying to bring this issue to people’s attention. I am using my skills and talents to help. I ask everyone to use their skills and their talents to help in any way that they can.

141 White Helmets have been killed. But they have saved over 62,000 lives. I ask everyone to take time to watch “The White Helmets” and visit their website https://www.whitehelmets.org. Please donate to the White Helmets to help them replace rescue equipment and ambulances that have been bombed. Also, I ask everyone to sign the petition on their website for the UN to follow through with their ban on barrel bombs.

“It is better to do humanitarian work than to be armed. Better to rescue a soul than to take one”- Mohammed Farah

 

 

 

Pikpa

As stated in the “Donations” section of the blog, I am partnering with Lesvos Solidarity-Pikpa, an open refugee camp for vulnerable refugees. This wonderful camp is run solely by volunteers and is truly such a magnificent organization. Over the summer, I had the chance to visit Pikpa. From our first phone call, the camp was instantly welcoming. As you arrive at the entrance of the camp, you see life jackets that line the fence to the right. The life jackets have the word “safe passage” written on them. Maybe some of you think this sounds cheesy, but it really felt like such an emotional phrase. For people who have suffered through so much, have traveled so far, to see the words “safe passage” must be an emotional relief.

Pikpa is like a home. It honestly reminded me of a summer camp. The volunteers and staff are encouraging and loving of all the refugees. Refugees have the opportunity to learn both Greek and English, yoga, art activities, trips to the museum, etc. Refugees even have the opportunity to take swimming lessons in order to help them overcome their fear of the sea.

Honestly, Pikpa is a temporary home for those without a home. Each refugee family has their own cabin/tent where they have beds, a desk, and sometimes a refrigerator (especially for those whose medicine needs to be refrigerated, like insulin). They have the opportunity to cook in their own homes for their families if they want. For some refugees who don’t want or don’t have the time to cook, a chef will prepare meals for them. The meals also happen to be really good! When I was there, I had a lunch of lentils, rice, and pita. The food is prepared with the refugees’ home land in mind. I know this means a lot to the refugees to be able to eat food that reminds them of home.

Pikpa is a camp for vulnerable refugees. They host refugees that are disabled, sick, pregnant or families of those shipwrecked. Pikpa has medical equipment, medicine, nurses and a doctor who can offer immediate help to refugees. If their medical needs require them to have more intensive care, Pikpa arranges for medical care in Athens. Not only do they offer physical care, but they offer mental and psychological support. I cannot imagine the horrors the refugees have suffered through or have seen. But Pikpa offers support to those who have suffered or seen intense violence and loss. It is something that people often overlook. Physical needs tend to be taken care of first, whereas, mental needs also need to be met.

As you read this, please think about the refugees at this camp. I have met some, and they are wonderful. To see a mother bring her entire family to a new country, including her autistic son, without a clear-cut idea of the future, both breaks my heart and motivates me. It breaks my heart because these refugees are so incredibly wonderful, and to know that they might not receive asylum crushes me. I don’t want them to go back. I want them to live the life that they were intended to live, a life full of happiness and joy and opportunity. It is so cheesy, but everyone deserves that. So please, please, I implore you: visit http://www.lesvossolidarity.org/index.php/en/ and donate to this wonderful camp.img_1533

Yusra, Omran & Alan

 

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES.

The stories of three refugees have been in the news a lot lately. The heartwarming story of Yusra Mardini, an Olympian who captured the hearts of millions. The heartbreaking story of Omran and Alan (though the story was published in 2015) has caused millions to shed tears and think more about the refugee crisis. As you read this post, please read carefully. Please think about the war, its causes, and its impact.

Imagine walking out, waving and smiling in front of thousands of people. The lights are bright and flash around you, illuminating your face. The whole world is watching you. That is what 10 refugees from across the world experienced as they brought the refugee crisis to the front page. These 10 refugees competed as a refugee team in the Rio Olympics. They are truly a symbol for hope in this world. They fought for their lives and now they are able to compete on the world’s stage.

When Yusra Mardini’s boat began to sink on the way to Greece, she jumped out and pulled the boat to safety. She continued swimming even when the other men gave up. She knew her only option was to pull the boat to safety–or risk everyone else’s life. As skilled swimmer, she not only saved her life, but 20 other people. She also was allowed to compete in the Rio Olypmics, something people work their entire life to achieve. She is a human face of the refugee crisis. She did not let the war and carnage define her. Instead, she used her skills to save herself and now become a face for the refugee crisis worldwide.

War is simply Hell. War brings out the nastiest and most gruesome elements of humankind. A picture of a young boy in Aleppo has been circulating on the internet lately. The little boy, Omran Daqneesh, was pulled from the rubble during a bombing in his home town of Aleppo. The scene, however, it all too common. The image has been published and shown all over social media and the news. Omran has become a symbol for the children affected by the war in Syria. The media has now portrayed him as the face of all Syrian children, shell-shocked and bloody.

Many have likened Omran’s picture to that of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey. The boat that the Kurdi family was traveling on threw the family, a mother, two sons and a father, into the ocean. Only Mr. Kurdi, the father, survived. The image of Alan, a 3 year old boy face down in the Turkish waters, became a symbol of the war. It opened Western eyes to the war. His story, like Omran’s, is personal. They put a face to the crisis. They show how children are in conditions no human should have to face. No human should ever live in fear of their home being bombed. No human should have to make a decision to risk their life crossing the ocean for an unknown future. No parent should have to bury their child because he drowned in hopes of finding a better life.

The war hurts everyone. It hurts the children, like Omran and Alan. It hurts the young adults, like Yusra. It hurts parents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and friends and teachers and neighbors. It simply destroys lives.

Please go to http://www.lesvosolidarity.org to help a wonderful refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece.

For more information about Yusra, Omran & Alan:

 

Moria

This latest post is coming out a little late because I have been in Washington D.C. for a Youth Mental Health Conference. At the conference, I learned about different programs other cities have implemented regarding youth mental health, talked about removing the stigma for the issue, and became certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid. The health of  a population is critical to their success. Both mental and physical health are pertinent to maintaining a stable and functioning society. When you are physically ill, you are less likely to perform your best. When you are mentally unhappy, you are also less likely to perform your best.

Now before I begin with refugees: not all refugee camps are the same. Lesbos consists of two main camps & one run by volunteers. The two main camps are Kara Tepe Refugee Center and Moria Detention Center. The third camp, run strictly by volunteers, is called Lesbos Solidarity-Pikpa. Due to my age and an enormous amount of restrictions/requirements, I was only able to personally visit Lesbos Solidarity-Pikpa. I did, however, have the opportunity to speak to those who volunteer with both camps.

MORIA

As refugees come ashore in Lesbos, if they arrive at Skala Sikaminias, they are taken to the first check point of the Moria camp. This camp is run by the military and is assisted by only a select group of organizations. While driving around the island, my father and I stumbled upon this small camp in the winding roads of Lesbos. The volunteers were extremely welcoming, and I would like to extend a thank you for their hospitality. While there, I was shown around the small check point and introduced to the current shift of volunteers. Here is an example of what would happen if a group of refugees came ashore:

First: When their boat is spotted, the military is notified. The check point is called to be prepared. The military then takes the refugees by bus to this camp.

Second: The refugees are given water and small foods, like a banana, and shown an area where they can change clothes if they are wet.

Third: They are then placed in a large tent-like room where food is distributed and they are given blankets and some basic necessities. Outside of the tent are bathrooms with showers and sinks.

Fourth: Depending on when they arrive, they might spend the night and be ushered by bus to Moria Detention Center the next day, or taken later the same day.

You might be asking, why am I calling this camp the detention center…I am calling it a detention center because these refugees are treated like prisoners. They are detained for 25 days while paperwork is filed. After their paperwork goes through, they have the option to leave the camp…but with no where to go. With no money, where can one go? No where. Moria was formerly army barracks, ergo the feeling of being in a prison. Not only do these refugees want to leave Greece to go elsewhere in Europe, but they are trapped. The borders are closed. They are stuck in Greece until the borders reopen.

The volunteers I met work for 3 weeks in Lesbos. They alternate between working at the Moria Detention Center and Skala Sikaminias. While at Skala Sikaminias, I had the opportunity to speak to volunteers openly and honestly about their experiences at the camp. All of the volunteers wanted nothing more than to help and better the lives of the refugees. One volunteer told me a story about four Afghani women she met at the camp. These women wanted to learn the Latin Alphabet. Their village was controlled by the Taliban, and the women were not allowed to learn anything except for the Quran. This volunteer was able to teach these four women the alphabet. Not only did she make friends, but she was able to empower the women by increasing their education.These women were so thankful for their new friendship and the ability to learn that they offered the volunteer their dinner. The women had nothing, but they were so thankful for the ability to learn that they wanted to offer all that they could. Some of the little children tug on the volunteers sleeves, desiring a playmate. Education and games are a great way to increase someone’s mental happiness. They offer a positive outlet in the midst of a difficult journey.

While there are some positive aspects of this camp, it faces its own struggles. These people have undergone an intense, long journey. They have fled their own homes in order to find something that they hope is better. But when they arrive, prison is not what they expected. Some of the refugees told the volunteers that

“if they had known that they were going to be in prison for months, they would rather have died at home.”

The camps put an enormous amount of stress on the already belabored refugees. Moria is mostly filled with men, young men. These men have no outlets of recreation or activity. They have no way of making money. This causes many fights and thefts. Within Moria, people come from different countries (Afghanistan, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan), represent different ethnic groups, speak different languages, and observe different religious practices. This leads to an abundance of tension because formerly feuding or separate groups are now forced together under intense conditions. Many also steal from the surrounding city because the camp cannot provide enough resources for everyone.

I would like to ask that before anyone makes an assumption about refugees or reads an article about fights or thefts, think about the stress that they are under. I cannot emphasize enough about how difficult this journey is. They left everything behind without a clear vision of the future. If they survived the journey to Greece, they must learn to survive now in Greece.

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Starting a Dialogue

This summer has been emotional. It seems that I can’t wake up without getting a notification about a death. Each day sees bombings and shootings and hate. Hate permeates our society; not just American society but our global society. We feed off of hate. What stretches across borders, languages, religions, races, ethnicities, and cultures? Hate. Cheesy as it sounds…but so does love. Love is what strengthens a community to combat hate. Love is what brings together people from different cultures, religions, countries, races, languages, and ethnicities. It is a love for each other as human beings on this earth. We all share similar hopes, dreams, and fears. It doesn’t matter if you tell your dreams in French, English, Swahili, sign language, Vietnamese, or Portuguese. Or any language. We all have things in common. Why is it so hard for some to see that? Why is it so irrationally difficult for some to see that we are equally important? Why is it difficult for some to see that all religions are acceptable? Or why do I support my LGBTQ friends, peers and the community? Because everyone deserves love. Why do I? Because I love them for who they are. I love my friends who are different from me. I love my friends who are similar to me. Because I cannot stand living a life where everyone is identical to myself. A world where no one is unique.

You might be asking by now “well…what does this have to do with the refugee crisis…isn’t that what your blog is supposed to be about?” The answer is: it is about starting a dialogue. I am comfortable discussing difficult issues with my friends and family. I feel safe articulating my thoughts on situations. I desire for everyone to have that same feeling. So here is how it ties back to the refugee crisis at hand. You must speak up for what you believe in. It is the same sentence your parents, teachers, mentors or whomever has told you over the years. But it never goes away. I believe everyone in this world deserves to live to the highest of their capability and should have the opportunity to try everything to reach their goals. That includes those of different religion, race, ethnicity, sexuality, language, and country. ANYONE. Why should someone have that right taken away because they are black? Or because they are a woman? Because they are a different religion? Because they are a different sexuality? Maybe it’s their gender…or their ethnic group…country of origin? NONE OF THE ABOVE. Your gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, language, anything, nothing should stop you from accomplishing your dreams. Or trying to reach your dreams. Yes, some people are more privileged than others. I am more privileged than some. Some are more privileged than me. That is the way the world works. But it does not mean that you cannot strive for greater, better, more.

I was in Greece when I heard about the attack in Orlando. And it broke my heart. I was born three years before 9/11. I have grown up in a world paralyzed by fear of terrorism. I cannot fly to Greece without having all my belongings searched. I can’t enter my school without being buzzed in by security. I am afraid of movie theatres. And now, am I supposed to be afraid of clubs? Of places where people feel safe? Gay/Lesbian bars were sanctuaries for those to feel like they can be truly who they are. No false appearances needed. Now what? It breaks my heart to ever think that my friends, my LGBTQ friends, could’ve been killed. Why were they killed? HATE. This was a hate crime. Innocent, loving people were killed because of who they are. I carefully choose my language. I chose “are”  instead of “were”. Because I don’t believe they are truly gone. Their memory, their legacy, lives on, and it gives us all a reason to fight for justice and love for all.

I was here in Birmingham when I heard about the deaths of Alton Stearling and Philando Castile. Brutally killed. Did selling CDs require multiple gunshot wounds when he was incapable of moving? Did a busted headlight deserve to be shot in the chest as you reached for your ID?. These men left behind families. They are not of any lesser value because of the color of their skin. It is unnecessary violence. In no world should those men have been killed. Was it because their skin was a different color? It fueled by hate. Police brutality exists. These are prime examples.

That is not to say all cops are bad. I am not anti-cop. I believe that there are truly some wonderful policemen and women who risk their lives to keep us safe. I admire their constant courage. I was recently in Memphis where I saw a memorial ride for a fallen police officer. He was shot as he tried to get citizens out of the street to protect them from a suspect with a gun. This police officer lost his life keeping us safe. In Dallas, five police officers were killed during a peaceful protest. As the protestors calmly and peacefully protested police brutality, a sniper shot and killed five officers. These five men were simply trying to protect their citizens. They also left behind families. These cops are men. They are humans. This act was fueled by hate.

Hate is what ruins our society. It is a disease worse than any other. It infects one person until it spreads throughout towns, cities, counties, states, and countries. Now it has infected the world. Gone was the love we had for our fellow neighbor.

Again, you might be thinking “okay…now what?” Now I task each person who reads this to start a dialogue. If you’re with your parents, talk to them. Your partner? They’ll listen. Your teachers? They’d love to hear your opinion. Friends? Even they’d want to talk. Talk about what upsets you. Is it racism? Talk about it. Is it sexism? Talk about it. LGBTQ discrimination? Talk about it. War and refugees? Talk about it. Creating dialogue will usher in a wave of ideas. With ideas come changes. With change will come love. We just have to work and wait.

Quick Facts

Let’s discuss some quick facts about the refugee crisis:

·      According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a refugee is “someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons”.

·      Many also refer to those fleeing as “migrants”. Merriam-Webster defines a migrant as “a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work”. Regardless of if you call them migrants or refugees, all of those braving the journey to a new country are leaving for specific reasons.

·      Currently, the world is watching millions of refugees flee, creating the highest levels of displacement since WWII.

·      Greece currently hosts over 57,000 refugees.

·      In Greece, the unemployment rate as of March 2016 was 24.1%.

·      As of June 25, 2016, there have been 90,769 arrivals by sea in Lesbos, the 3rd largest Greek island.

·      Over 206,500 have risked their lives to reach Europe by sea in 2016.

·      Many refugees take a multi step process to reach Europe: many will leave their homes in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan and travel to Turkey by land. Once they reach Turkey, many attempt to make the 4 mile journey between the Turkish port cities and Lesbos by boat.

Partial-Europe-Middle-East-Asia-Partial-Russia-Partial-Africa-Map

·      In 2016, there have been 2,510 deaths of refugees crossing the Mediterranean.

·      The odds of being among the dead are 1 in 81.

·      Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, approximately 9 million Syrians have fled their homes. Over 6.5 million are internally displaced.

·      The March 18th Accord was intended to stop the flow of refugees from Turkey into the EU. All refugees attempting to cross from Turkey will be returned to Turkey. This accord has left thousands of refugees trapped in Greece.

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