This summer, I spent a few days in Montpellier, France, a beautiful coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea. I spent my afternoons sunbathing and swimming in the gentle waves of one of the world’s most beautiful bodies of water. Life was good. I was relaxed and happy. Little did I know, however, that just a few hundred miles out, there were groups of men, women, and children dying in the same exact sea that I was lazily floating in.
Before this summer, I held Europe on a pedestal. Somewhat dissatisfied with my own Congress’ inability to compromise, I looked toward the European Union with hopeful eyes. Here was a union of 28 countries that worked together, though they differed from one another on a multitude of levels. I was oblivious, however, to the fact that the European Union has a multitude of problems on its own. I was just viewing the EU through the lens that I wanted to view it through.
The current refugee crisis in Europe hit me like a quick and painful slap in the face. After a while, I had to stop watching the videos put out by mainstream media. I couldn’t bear seeing any more videos of dying and starving men, women, and children just trying find a place where they could live their lives without the constant fear of being killed. I am quite aware that the refugee crisis in Europe is not a simple problem with a simple solution. I know that there are dozens of political, economic, and social implications surrounding all sides of the issue. I know that at this point in my life I don’t have the adequate education or experience to go out and make political change within the European Union.
At the same time, I cannot stand by and watch this international atrocity unfold before my eyes without voicing my dissent and disappointment in the way we as a society can treat other human beings. It’s a time like this when I think it’s important to step back and question ourselves and our motives.
“It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery in the world,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. “But we have to put it into perspective … this still represents just 0.11 percent of the EU population. In Lebanon refugees represent 25 percent of the population.”
The EU should be able to find room for such a small percentage of the population. While many EU leaders argue that Europe does not have the infrastructure or funds available to house this mass wave of refugees, some leaders have voiced that they believe the countries of the EU are not ready for this amount of Muslims within its borders. The prime minister of Hungary went to far as to say that the refugees, a majority of whom are Muslim, pose a threat to Europe’s Christian heritage. Christian heritage teaches its followers to love one another, not to devalue the life of another human being because they prescribe to a different religion.
There are so many problems in this world that stem from a lack of understanding of those around us who do not share our same customs or culture. The European Union itself is made up of countries that do not share the exact same language or cultures but that actively chose to come together and work toward the shared human goals of well-being and stability for all citizens of the EU. Yet, now that these refugees are landing on their shores, many want to turn their heads and ignore them because they are too different.
These refugees are leaving their own countries that are filled with so much violence and hatred only to arrive on a continent where many still look at them with hatred in their eyes.
Perhaps I am too optimistic or too impractical, but I stand firm with my belief that so much good can come from teaching each other that, above all, it is imperative to treat every other human being with kindness, respect, and compassion. I can only hope that the countless stories, videos, and pictures published daily of the struggles these refugees face can open up more eyes to the atrocities of the world and our responsibility as free human beings to make positive change.
Featured Image by The Associated Press