Originally published in The Huffington Post
As the old wisdom goes, the opposite of love isn’t hate — it’s apathy.
If you don’t understand why that is, look no further than the Syrian refugee crisis. A five-year Syrian civil war rages on that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. And as the worst refugee crisis since WWII erupts onto the world stage, the vast majority of the world pretends these refugees aren’t their responsibility.
Nations like Turkey and Lebanon have led by example, accepting millions of refugees — but they cannot possibly take them all. Groups like Humanity First, an NGO launched by the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, expresses its sympathies and builds schools for Syrian refugee children–but they cannot possibly educate them all.
We don’t know if nations who haven’t taken refugees “hate” Syrians. We can say, however, that their decision to wash their hands of this problem shows the dangers of apathy.
These refugees have been forced to leave their countries under threat of death and the most horrific living conditions. They deserve love, compassion, respect, and kindness. This is a worldwide obligation that requires altruism and generosity. Nations have a moral responsibility — nations beyond those neighboring Syria, and certainly beyond Europe — to help these refugees. This is a global catastrophe that requires a global effort.
But that said, charity begins at home, or at least near home. Arab states neighboring Syria must fulfill their obligations and provide as much refugee assistance as possible. While they should be leading the world in helping Syrian refugees, it is a travesty that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, and Kuwait are virtually absent in this effort. This trend must change if we hope to help those in need, and prevent a destroyed generation.
But as this is a worldwide obligation, Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and the Far East — indeed all UN member states, must play their rightful role. This global response is the only just and fair method to deal with this unprecedented global travesty. The United States recently announced that it will accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, while the United Kingdom is expected to admit some 20,000 refugees.
This is a good start, but not nearly enough.
Likewise, some nations have expressed security concerns over accepting refugees. But, in reality this is an excuse. Security concerns always exist, refugee crisis or not. The same control measures that are in place normally can apply here to ensure refugees are genuine, and not extremists or terrorists. Rather than make such excuses, nations should engage in a long term several year plan to prevent a relapse. The last thing Syrian refugees, or the world, needs is a short term band aid solution.
And thus, to ensure the refugee “pipe-line” ends, the world must also unite to ensure Syria’s peaceful survival. Aiding refugees is critical, but we must stop the bleeding — literally and figuratively — to minimize the number of future refugees. To date, at least 10,000 children have been killed in this crisis, and hundreds of thousands more now suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and psychological trauma. Organizations like Humanity First, White Helmet, and Amnesty, and nations like Turkey and Lebanon have established a productive model to assist those in need. But they cannot be the exceptions to the rule. Now, the world must likewise unite to not only help the historic number of refugees, but also to ensure that the situation creating countless refugees is resolved as peacefully and as quickly as possible.
We’ve been apathetic to Syria long enough. It is time to move forward with love and compassion.