When searching for a topic that I wanted to learn more about for this assignment I was browsing through the different TEDTalk’s and not much was really calling my name. I decided to listen to a couple different talks and David Miliband’s hit me to the core. His TEDTalk was titled The Refugee Crisis is a Test of our Character. I’m not sure his thoughts would have affected me so much if I hadn’t had the experience of working with some of the refugees with Because He First Loved Us. After attending Lagoon with these young refugee children, I had asked myself the question “why don’t I do more to help refugee’s” and “why don’t more people help refugees.” These questions have stuck with me ever since that day. I had such an enjoyable experience with these children and it was beyond rewarding. So why is it so difficult to make the time to do it again. David’s thoughts combined with some of the research I have found helped shed some light on the matter for me and I aim to share some of what I learned in my following thoughts.
David Miliband is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where he oversees the agency’s humanitarian relief operations in more than 40 war-affected countries and its refugee resettlement and assistance programs in 28 United States cities. In David’s TEDtalk he focuses on how the decision to help refugees is a moral decision and a test of our character. As a descendant of refugee’s, like a lot of us here in America, David has a passion for assisting refugees. He does his best to relate to each one of us by putting into perspective what we as humans have a responsibility to do to help refugees. He states “Ignorance isn’t a choice because we can see what is happening all over the world from our phones.” There are many of us in the world who, like me, that just choose to look the other way when It comes to assisting refugees. With excuses such as “I’m too busy, too poor, or don’t know how to help,” David no longer lets us off the hook as he gives us each examples of how we can help. In his words he says “If you are an employer higher refugees, if you are persuaded by arguments take on the myths when family or friends repeat them, if you’ve got money donate it to charities, if you are a citizen vote for politicians who will put into practice the actions that have been spoken about in this talk.” Essentially the message that he is trying to send in that statement is that no matter what our calling in life is, we can find ways to help refugees in our own individual capacities. No matter what “hat” we wear in society, if we look for opportunities to serve instead of hiding behind complacency, we will find those opportunities we are seeking.
The first research article I was able to find that assisted in my understanding of this topic was “Justice, Morality, and the Dehumanization of Refugees” by Victoria M. Esses, Scott Veenvliet, Gordon Hodson, and Ljiljana Mihic. This article really helped put into perspective the reason why a good amount of people don’t assist refugees. According to their findings, this article explains how dehumanization is a big reason why people don’t act and help as much as they should with refugees. They conducted a few surveys along with other studies that asked questions such as: “how do you think refugees raise their children?” and “how do you think refugees came to this country?” Through these studies and questions they found that we as people tend to dehumanize refugees.
In my second research article, “A Human Rights Based Approach to Refugees: A Look at the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Responses from Germany and The United States,” it touches on some of the moral approaches that we tend to take when deciding whether to assist refugees. In this study it breaks down our moral responsibilities into three categories the “Good Samaritan,” the duty to protect, and the duty of political responsibility. The “Good Samaritan” reasoning says that if a state’s own well-being could be compromised in helping non-citizens, such as through national security concerns or through economic burdens, then it is reasonable for states to evade helping non-citizens. The duty to protect says “how many people must die, how many refugees must flee, how many years must people suffer, before the world takes notice?” The duty of political responsibility basically says that if we had a hand in causing the refugees to flee by war or any other means toward their country then we have the obligation to help fix what we caused. In each of these “responsibilities” toward refugees there is a flaw if you ask me, which is why I decided to side with David Miliband.
I stand with David’s statements from his TEDtalk that we need to take a moral approach to assisting refugee’s. In it he refers to the story of his Jewish ancestors and how they were saved by a German man during the Nazi times. He later was able to meet the man that saved his family by taking them in. He was able to ask him why he took them in and the man’s response was a simple shrug of the shoulders and the statement, “one must.” David used this statement to drive the point home that this was innate in him, it was a natural response to refugees. He went on to say that we need to make it so that our innate actions toward refugees is to help and to be considerate. It shouldn’t be a question of “if” we can help but “how” can we help.
Miliband, D. (n.d.). The refugee crisis is a test of our character. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/david_miliband_the_refugee_crisis_is_a_test_of_our_character
Esses, V. M., Veenvliet, S., Hodson, G., & Mihic, L. (2008). Justice, Morality, and the Dehumanization of Refugees. Social Justice Research, 21(1), 4-25. doi:10.1007/s11211-007-0058-4
Ostrand, N. (2015). The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Comparison of Responses by Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 3(3), 255-279. doi:10.14240/jmhs.v3i3.51