There’s a lot of good reasons for people to feel scared. Millions of people have fled and are still fleeing their homes, or what used to be their homes. We all have a very strong attachment to the places we grew up in. These are the places that are the film set for all our memories. The street where you learnt how to ride a bike, the store where you had your first job and earned your first salary. Your school, your streets, your neighbours. But when the fear of violence and persecution creeps into your everyday life, the familiar places start to look different. Now there are men with guns walking down the road and maybe you can’t trust people like you used to. You are scared. At some point it’s time to go. Usually people stay as long as they can. It can take something absolutely terrifying, like the death of a close relative or a friend, or maybe a close-call for yourself to shake you up. It’s not safe for me or my family anymore, and you decide make that decision to finally leave. But where do you go?
After a hard and often long journey people end up in a place that someone else, maybe you, call a home. A place that you have a very strong attachment to. The places where your grandparents used to take you to eat and that abandoned house next block that you explored as a kid. And now you see people that are different from you walking down the road, and you’re not sure if these people can be trusted. They speak a strange language, maybe they wear strange clothes and have strange customs. You are scared.
There’s a lot of good reasons for people to feel scared. But we shouldn’t feel scared of each other and of those who need help. According to the UNHCR, there’s more than 65 million people in the world that have been forced to leave their homes. It is a record high number and it’s more than the population of the United Kingdom. 24 more people flee their homes every minute, and all of these people will be dependent on someone helping them. We can’t underestimate the concerns people have, and we need to be able to listen to each other. Fears rarely go away by just belittling them, but by being able to process them.
We need to make sure that people have the basic things to survive: food, water and shelter, but people also have the need to be accepted. Today is the World Refugee Day, and even if you are not in a position that you can contribute financially, you can still do a lot. We are all responsible for creating an atmosphere that doesn’t condemn, but promotes understanding. It isn’t easy, but we all have to try our best. You can’t create an environment of understanding by condemning those who don’t understand.4