World Refugee Day: A call to care
“It’s a record that should never have been set,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. The record? Over 100 million people around the world have been forced to flee from gang violence, armed conflicts, war, global warming induced droughts, hunger, extreme poverty – in all, countless situations offering no hope.
Grandi boldly asserted, “This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underling causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
Heartlessly, Grandi’s plea has largely gone unheard. Instead, so many remain indifferent to the suffering of 100 million fellow human beings (see: https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/).
And even worse, instead of compassionately responding to Grandi’s plea to “resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes,” many governments and corporations are fueling the causes.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute global spending for war and war preparation is at an all-time high – over $2 trillion. The five largest spenders in 2021 were the U.S., China, India, the U.K., and Russia.
And of course, the bottom line for many companies is not peace, social justice and human development, but rather profit. According to SIPRI, the largest 25 arms and military service companies in 2020 sold $361 billion worth of instruments of war.
It is obvious that this ongoing flow of weapons is fueling the dozens of armed conflicts throughout the globe. One only has to consider the billions of dollars in armaments the U.S., NATO and Russia have spent, and are continuing to spend, in the Russia-Ukraine war, to see that this ongoing supply of weapons is like pouring gasoline on fire.
Human induced global warming from gas, coal and oil emissions are continuing to fuel wildfires, droughts, record heat waves, and extreme weather events that are quickly reaching the point of no return.
According to a recent NOAA report, “Levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, the three greenhouse gasses emitted by human activity that are the most significant contributors to climate change, continued their historically high rates of growth in the atmosphere during 2022.”
Not only is this extremely dangerous for the planet we inhabit, but it, like war, is driving record numbers of people to search for livable places. And livable places are becoming harder and harder to find.
Now add to these catastrophic refugee-causing realities, the tragedy of global hunger.
As reported by World Food Program USA, “Right now, there is a global food crisis – the largest one in modern history. From the eruption of new conflicts and the escalating impacts of the climate crisis to soaring food and fuel costs, millions of people are being driven closer to starvation each day.
“Nearly 350 million people around the world are experiencing the most extreme forms of hunger right now. Of those, nearly 49 million people are on the brink of famine.”
And for the hundreds of millions of other hungry fellow human beings who are not quite at the edge of starvation, and who still have the energy to move, they are on the move in search of food.
There is absolutely no reason for anyone to go hungry. We have the ability to ensure that every person has enough food to eat. The problem is individual indifference and the lack of compassionate political will.
For readers in the U.S. it is of vital importance that you contact your two senators and representatives urging them to support a robust reauthorization of the farm bill (see: https://go.bread.org/page/48001/action/1).
And please make a donation to Catholic Relief Services (see: https://www.crs.org/get-involved/learn/hunger).
Instead of building barriers to keep refugees out, Pope Francis says, “We need to see, and enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.”
And until we wholeheartedly address the root causes of why so many of our brothers and sisters are forced to leave their homes, the refugee crisis will continue to rightfully haunt us.
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.