COLUMN: ‘Refugees are people like you and me’

If a country’s citizens are its lifeblood, Syria has been literally and figuratively bleeding people for more than two years...

If a country’s citizens are its lifeblood, Syria has been literally and figuratively bleeding people for more than two years, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War.

The brutal civil war in Syria is utterly Byzantine in its cast of combatants and political complexity. It has its infancy in the Arab Spring, but with historic sectarianism deep in its genes, and modern Islamic fundamentalism twisting the DNA.

There’s a story in Jordan that the  war started as a child’s game, when a youngster scrawled an anti-government slogan on a wall.

If so, that act launched civil unrest, which opened multiple thick scripts of political and religious agendas – each seeking a slippery stranglehold in a country now awash in violence and misery.

Key combatants include Syria president Bashar Assad’s military, backed in areas by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and opposed by a bewildering host of forces, including the Syrian Free Army (FSA), the al Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS).

There is a growing presence of al Qaeda-linked militias involving thousands of foreign jihadist fighters, which are opposed by the Western-backed FSA. In the mix are umbrella groups, splinter factions and shifting alliances. Hardliners are pitted against moderates.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines are numerous nations providing financial backing for various factions. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Russia are all said to be providing money to wage war, jockeying for power and position when, and if, Syria is finally torn asunder.

There is no international military solution. Bringing down Assad opens the door for al Qaeda. Eliminating al Qaeda would require an invasion of Syria, igniting a firestorm involving the entire Middle East.

Power politics may bring an end to this, but at present, making peace is like grasping a wisp of smoke.

It’s all very distant and obscure for Canadians, although our nation is among the leaders in providing humanitarian support.

For most people though, it’s an internal war in a region known for conflict.

However, aside from the appalling refugee situation – now near three million outside of the country, and millions more internally displaced – the international stakes of this war are chilling.

Prof. Rupen Das, director of community development for the Lebanese Society of Education and Development, who taught at Humber College in Ontario, provides this insight from his office in Beirut:

“This is just not another battle out there that doesn’t concern you … as horrific as the Congo was, this is not the Congo. Refugees are flooding Europe.

“Afghanistan was far away, and al Qaeda was contained there, other than occasional stuff. Al Qaeda is real in Syria, and it’s more radicalized than it ever was in Afghanistan. It’s a bigger operation … it is on the borders of sensitive countries like Israel and Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon. It will destabilize the region like Afghanistan never did.

“And if Canada doesn’t care, they’re living in a fool’s paradise – that it really doesn’t concern them.”

If many Canadians can’t grasp the international security consequences of continued war in Syria, then perhaps they can focus on the humanitarian crisis.

Asked why Canadians should care, Anita Delhaas-van Dijk, national director for World Vision in Beirut, offers this observation:

“These refugees are not necessarily poor people. These refugees are people like you and me.

“It can be your case one day, God forbid. Or it can me, who is in their shoes.

“They didn’t have necessarily a poor life in Syria. They had lives like you and me. They had their jobs, their dreams, their future in front of them.

“One refugee is already a lot, and this refugee can be you.”

If we can’t understand this, then we aren’t seeing a child’s writing on the wall.

 

Andrew Holota was in Jordan and Lebanon last week, travelling at the invitation of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a key Canadian NGO providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the region.

For more information on the CFGB visit www.foodgrainsbank.ca

For more information on World Renew visit www.worldrenew.net

Read the series on the Syrian refugee crisis

Selling a child to feed a family

Life among the stones

‘They shoot them all – in front of their mothers’

Christianity a motivating force behind aid effort

A country overwhelmed

 

Just Posted

The Aquilini Investment Group and the city of Abbotsford have agreed to terms on related to management of the Abbotsford Centre.
Aquilini Investment Group awarded Abbotsford Centre contract

Canucks ownership group, city of Abbotsford come to agreement on terms

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Rick Hansen Secondary School teacher Jasvir Gill is the project coordinator for the Equity for Humanity project.
Equity for Humanity project aims to build culture conversation in Abbotsford

Rick Hansen Secondary School’s Jasvir Gill believes cultural understanding will benefit everyone

.
Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

A letter from a senior RCMP officer in Langley said Mounties who attended a mayor’s gala in January of 2020 used their own money. Controversy over the event has dogged mayor Val van den Broek (R) and resulted in the reassignment of Langley RCMP Supt. Murray Power (L). (file)
Langley RCMP officers used ‘own money’ to attend mayor’s gala, senior officer says

‘I would not want there to be a belief that the police officers had done something untoward’

Squirrels are responsible for most of U.S. power outages. Black Press file photo
Dead squirrels in park lead Richmond RCMP to probe ‘toxic substance’ found in trees

Police aren’t sure if the chemical was dumped there or placed intentionally

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read