“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ~ The Dalai Lama
According to the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency), 65.6 million people were forced to flee their homes by the end of 2016—most of them coming from Muslim-majority countries.
The Western countries took many of them in, until multiple terrorist attacks left us deeply scared of these unknown, partially unregistered, strangers.
In the never-ending debate about whether borders should be closed (Europe) or people from Muslim-majority countries should be banned (USA), I’d like for us to take a moment to listen to the people we’re debating about.
These refugees who’ve fled their war-stricken countries might be silent most of the time, because they’re trying to settle in a foreign country, whose culture differs so dramatically from their own. But every once in a while, they do get the opportunity to share their story—in this case, it was during a performance on German television.
Watching their performance and hearing their stories made my heart unbearably heavy.
“They” are Syrian refugees, part of a project in Germany that brings them all together to do one of the most powerful things we can do: singing. For me, the refugee choir created a strikingly vulnerable and heartbreaking moment on German television.
During their performance of the song “Janna,” which means “paradise,” we can see the audience become visibly choked up. The refugee choir came with an important message for us: to preserve our peace and stop the war.
They say they’re thankful to be in Germany right now, but one can see them fighting back tears when they’re talking about their destroyed country.
My respect could not be greater for the Syrians who have put themselves out there in a TV show and allowed themselves vulnerable regarding a topic that has probably left many scars on their souls.
They talk about the beautiful cities in Syria, wearing t-shirts with the names of their hometowns written on them: Homs, Damascus, Haka, Aleppo.
They wouldn’t be here if these cities wouldn’t be completely destroyed.
I repeat: they wouldn’t be here, if their dreams in their home country hadn’t been shattered, if their families weren’t torn apart by a cruel war. They don’t seek to take anything away from us—they only want peace.
With increasing crimes against refugees and Muslims around the world, it feels more important than ever to share their side of the story. Because we don’t only need compassion and understanding for those who fear the foreign cultures in their space, but also for the ones arriving here traumatized.
Compassion is not a one-way street. We shouldn’t care so much about which party or which religion someone belongs to, but more so, we should understand we’re capable of being compassionate toward each other despite our differences.
We’re often too quick to judge a situation; it’s part of our human nature in an attempt to make sense of all this chaos—but we need to remember that it’s not them against us. And, it’s not us against them—not even in times of disastrous war and horrifying terrorist attacks. Peace is not reached through winning, but by uniting.
Our compassion doesn’t become smaller if we share it with others. It grows bigger. It has the potential to grow into a movement—if we’re able to be compassionate, even in moments when it seems ridiculously difficult for us. We can start with small steps toward more kindness simply by listening more closely.
We’re all someone’s child, mother, father, sister, brother, or friend. We all want to be safe. Refugees are not an exception to this rule. They are not a danger to another country. The real danger only stems from hate—so let us be wise and take the first step: stepping out of hate, into compassion.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Author: Svenja Dietz
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Danielle Beutell
Social editor: Callie Rushton