The Sorrow of Refugees
The United Nations (“UN”) stated that for the two weeks to 11 March, more than 2.5 million refugees had left Ukraine. The UN also estimates that a further 1.9 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while 13 million have been “directly impacted by the conflict.”
Imagine having to collect all your belongings into a small bag and leave your home on short notice, not knowing if you will ever return.
India is no stranger to this immense tragedy of refugees. Due to partition, the 1951 census showed that 7.249 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to India, and 7.226 million Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. During the 1971 war, close to 10 million Bangladeshi refugees entered India.
Around the world, wars and pogroms continue to cause destruction and force people to flee their homes. The United Nations High Commissioner (“UNHCR”) for Refugees is a UN agency mandated to aid and protect refugees. The UNHCR states that “in the first half of 2021, more than 84 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide
- 26.6 million refugees in the world—the highest ever seen;
- 50.9 million internally displaced people; and
- 4.4 million asylum-seekers.
- 4.1 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.”
What can we do?
In an ideal world, peace would be the norm, and there would be no wars. But there are evil people in the world and we need to help where we can. The Norwegian Refugee council recommends a three-step process:
- “Work together. It’s essential that wealthy countries work together to share the responsibility for protecting refugees.
- Increase support. Wealthy nations must also increase the support and funding they provide to people in conflict-stricken countries.
- Protect asylum seekers.”
I have to point out that I am a descendent of refugees. My ancestors benefitted greatly from enlightened help. As a Parsi, India, and specifically, King Jadhav Rana gave refuge to my ancestors when they had to flee persecution in Persia. The story is that King Jadhav Rana applied only a few conditions; no carrying of arms, no proselytizing, wearing Indian clothes, and learning the Gujarati language. Otherwise, the Parsis were free to live and contribute in their new homes. The result was that Parsis ever since helped India.
Similarly, if countries open up their homes, apply only a few basic rules, and embrace refugees, the benefits could occur over multiple generations.
Let us remember two wise quotes:
“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” says Warsan Shire, a British poet. Refugees are like you and me. They love their homes. They do not want to put their families at risk unless they have to.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything,” said Albert Einstein.
We have to help in whatever way we can, small or big. The sorrow of refugees is the sorrow all of us bear.
© Kaikhushru Taraporevala