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The Milton Measure

Staying Aware: Syrian Refugee Crisis

by on Friday, May 19th, 2017

Often times the general population knows about one major issue but does not pay as much attention to other national and international events. On April 20th, activist and humanitarian Jordan Hattar came to speak to Ms. Geyling-Moore’s Activism for Justice in a Digital World students about his work in Syrian refugee camps. Ms. Geyling-Moore invited the entire upper school student body to come listen, but I noticed that only a few students not taking the activism course came. Have all of us become desensitized to even the largest refugee crisis since World War II?

Milton students are generally informed and opinionated about current national issues. We have many platforms dedicated to discussing social and political issues: our student publications, political groups like FLLAG or Conservative Club, and cultural groups like Onyx or Asian Society. However, these groups often jump from topic to topic in order to keep students interested in reading their publications or attending their meetings.

This trend is reflected in the quick-moving news cycle, which swiftly moves on from topics that lack new developments. In the last couple of months, only a civil war has garnered attention—when President Trump took direct military action against the Assad regime, for example. However, as Jordan Hattar said during his visit, the refugee crisis hasn’t gone away even though the press has. Society as a whole gradually forgets crises that doesn’t affect the privileged directly, and the Milton community is no exception.

Recently, a few Milton students have started two separate fundraising initiatives for refugees. Kiana Cozier (I) fundraised for the Boston Center for Health and Human Rights, which she visited for her Activism class. She describes the center as a “one-stop shop” that provides medical care, legal aid, food, clothes, and more for refugees and asylees in Boston. After listening to Jordan Hattar, Natasha Roy (III) and Maggie Shields (II) were inspired to start a fundraiser named “Re-Wear for Refugees” to donate to his initiative, Help4Refugees, which, among other things, gives Syrian children the medical attention they need.

When asked about Jordan’s role in starting their initiatives, they all expressed how they felt compelled to act after hearing the heartbreaking but eye-opening stories that humanized the refugees. Maggie says, “It got me thinking that if anything is better than zero, it’s just lazy for me not to do something.” Natasha agreed, adding, “We have all these resources around us that we could use to do something good, yet we often don’t.”

We cannot lose interest in ongoing crises just because there are no interesting, new developments. How many students can say that the Syrian refugee crisis had been one of the current issues on the forefront of their minds before those students started fundraising? As Kiana observed, “People just move on to the next issue that arises but the old issue is still there, and [that already existing issue] is only going to get worse if we ignore it.”

Re-Wear for Refugees has currently raised more than six hundred dollars, proving that our community wants to help. Oftentimes we just need someone to remind us of others’ suffering, even if that someone has to be ourselves. We need to recognize our common humanity in order to prevent ourselves from becoming distanced from or desensitized to an issue. We, as a community, need to remember that knowledge by itself is not power; knowledge and action combined is power. At some point, we need to transform awareness into action and become true activists.

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Posted by on May 19 2017. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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