My friend said this: The refugee crisis we have in the world at the moment is because we have too much stuff. For some seconds I thought he was not entirely in touch with the state of affairs we are in right now—here on planet Earth.
It seems to me we have a refugee crisis because rotten leaders are leading rottenly, and people fleeing just have rotten luck all the way. My cluttered attic has less to do with the current plight. Is my over-stuffed shoe-shelf the reason millions are fleeing warn-torn countries?
We live in an unjust world, my friend continued, and I thought he was getting closer to the core issue. But still I wasn’t sure about the issue of my stuff. My closet is bulging. This causes stress whenever I buy a new dress or shirt because I am out of hangers. But I never considered that it would cause families to pack a few belongings and head for an unknown future in an unknown land.
The uncomfortable truth is that my friend is right. I knew it all along, but didn’t want to admit it. Realizing one is part of the problem is never a good feeling. Realizing that solving the problem will require giving up some of what I think is rightfully mine stings. Fact: I have been teaching teenagers the exact same thing over the past week. I just didn’t want my theory to affect my own comfortable lifestyle.
Why do people get trafficked? I would ask the teens. Why do wars start? Why do people flee their homes, leaving all they know and love behind? The answer varied every time I asked. But sooner or later a bright youngster would raise his or her hand and ask: Is it because of poverty? Bingo! said I. Then somebody else would add: And oppression? Score! I replied.
When parents can’t feed their children, when governments don’t build schools in villages, when adults have no jobs to go to, when vaccines cost more than a family can pay, when doctor fees are higher than a monthly income, when privileges are not yours because of your race, skin color or religion, people feel desperate. When, in addition to an already impossible situation, soldiers come and attack, people seem to do one of three things:
1. They continue to be desperate and hope the situation will change, trying their best to improve it. 2. They join a group that will use whatever means possible to bring what they perceive justice to be. This may not be justice the way we think of it. This may be “justice” in the form of revenge. 3. They flee.
Then there is the other question that is harder to answer: Why are people poor and oppressed? We could answer that they are poor because they come from poor countries. But that is not necessarily true. In Myanmar people are ranked among the world’s poorest. Yet, the country is bursting with natural resources. The reasons nations are poor are as many as beads on a pearl necklace. For many it started all those years ago when the countries were colonized and plundered. Kind of like getting polio as a child and never recovering. Not that I am an expert on the theme, but it seems to me that every country that once was a colony is still trying to learn how to walk. Think Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar and others. That the leaders who have led since have been as capable as sea slugs have made already big problems bigger.
One would think that western nations who once stole resources and distorted cultures would want to make things better now that we are wealthy and fine, and they are still stuck in the mud. What poor nations are given by the West, however, are unfair trade deals, aid dependency and climate change.
So I am getting myself into a tangle here, and while I am struggling to put my thoughts together, I see myself getting labels such as communist and worse. I am not. I am just trying to understand why the world it so unfair, and I am seeing that the answer is not black and white. There is no one correct answer to the question: Why do people flee their homes and their countries? There is no simple solution. All I know is this: It is so heart-wrenchingly unfair.
One can have many opinions on economics and the solution to poverty. I am not an economist, just an ordinary woman who knows about myself that I could do so much more. One of the things I could do is to stop spending my money on stuff that I don’t really need, just want. So in that respect my friend was absolutely right. If all of us just spent a little less on ourselves, and a little more on them, we would already be a on the way to solving the refugee crisis. If we also could convince our leaders that cheap gas, diamonds, teak furniture, new smart phones every two years and designer purses don’t matter that much to us, then they too may start changing their politics.
Jesus was ahead of us in his thinking, and I wish we would all be better at following his example and commands:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)