When I heard about the attacks in Paris, I had just come home from working all week in school. The reality of it did not sink in until I encountered more and more images and posts on social media. You see, I avoid the news these days…it is rarely positive, offers little hope, and no real solutions. I find more comfort in the more intimate outrage and ideas of regular human beings.
But I am also saddened by many people’s attitudes toward refugees, Muslim refugees in particular. I see a lot of really stupid, racist generalizations about people from other countries (i.e: Non-Americans). So the intimate outrage becomes outright bigotry, that in turn fosters more misconceptions. Then, people start lashing out at victims of that terrorism, such as the Syrian refugees. And make no mistake: They are suffering the same terrorism, in much larger numbers, so much so that they have had to flee their homes and cross many continents to find a safe haven.
What happened in France is devastating, unthinkable…but it is just another thread in the fabric of an intolerant society. A symptom of a greater disease. Refugees fleeing religious persecution and wars are accepted readily enough in European countries, but the same demonization that occurs in America has inflicted those in France, and Belgium (which turns out to be where the latest young terrorist cell came from). These young people feel marginalized, with little hope of acceptance and a brighter future, so they turn to organizations like ISIS to find purpose, and they believe, justification for their anger.
When we as people make assumptions and statements like “all refugees can be potential terrorists” and “no terrorist-refugees will be welcome in my neighborhood!”, we become as backward and twisted as the hate-mongering fundamentalists we profess we are totally against.
So…what solutions have we? Governments decree an “eye for an eye” approach, and the bombs fall. More innocents die, along with the ones whom our leaders are trying to punish. Thousands and thousands of refugees are created yet again. And then those refugees are in turn treated with suspicion. They may be taken on in the name of “humanity”, but the acceptance stops there. Now they must start over as strangers in a strange land, nurtured or hated –depending on the current public opinion.
As for me: What has happened in Paris, as has been happening for as long as I can remember, just makes me want to educate even more refugee students. These are the people I can reach. These are the ones who wish so badly to be accepted, to find a home, to find a voice. Education, in English or any other second language, gives these people leverage, a future. Will hopefully lift them out of poverty. Will lessen the chance of their becoming marginalized in any society. Then, and only then, will organizations like ISIS fail to sway the hearts and minds of the world’s children.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment, but let us be civil about it.
Peace be on us all.