By Léo Azambuja
As I hear about senseless acts of violence all over the world, all I can say is, lucky we live Kaua‘i. Aside from annual hurricane threats, a hell of a traffic in Kapa‘a, pricey interisland plane tickets, feral chickens and not enough movie theaters and night clubs, life is pretty darn good here.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m not really going down the happiness path here.
Truth is, we’re not alone. We need help from beyond our shores to survive.
We import almost anything that comes to mind. We wouldn’t last a week before plunging into social chaos if we got cut off from the rest of the world.
So I urge you to at least think about our moral obligations to others around the world who are in dire need of help and support.
This holiday season, while we get to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve with family and friends, millions will be facing an uncertain future while trying to survive in some of the most deplorable conditions.
In Syria, a civil unrest that started in March 2011 has escalated to an all-out civil war with at least four different groups fighting the government forces or each other. The consequences have been catastrophic for millions of people in Syria, one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, dating back more than 12,000 years to the Neolithic Period, or New Stone Age, when agriculture and cattle breeding first appeared on the planet.
This is no small crisis. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, also known as ECHO, is saying this is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Syria has roughly 22 million inhabitants. An estimated 13.5 million inside the country are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to ECHO. About 4.5 million of those are in hard to reach or besieged areas.
Close to 11 million, and perhaps even more, have been displaced. Some 6.5 million of them are still in the country, while about 4.3 million refugees have been registered or are awaiting registration in other countries, according to the United Nations.
The European Union and its member states have poured more than $4.68 billion for relief and recovery assistance to Syrians in the country and to refugees and their host communities in Turkey (2.2 million refugees), Lebanon (1 million refugees), Jordan (633,644 refugees), Iraq (244,765 refugees), and Egypt and North Africa (127,681 refugees).
In Europe, as of Nov. 15, the total number of asylum applications from Syrian fleeing the war was at 681,173.
Additionally, Canada and many Latin American countries are taking refugees.
Making matters worse, the European winter is fast approaching, and the United Nations Refugee Agency released on Nov. 5 a document titled Winterization Plan for the Refugee Crisis in Europe. The plan is an appeal for $96.15 million to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and loss of life in refugee camps during the winter. It builds on a previous appeal for an initial response plan released Sept. 8, in which UN sought $76.57 million.
The United States has accepted Syrian refugees since 2011, but we only took just under 2,200. President Barack Obama wants to take 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, a plan yet to win approval from Congress.
Many fear an influx of Syrian refugees could bring terrorists here. But accepting refugees is nothing new. Since 1975, when the Vietnam War ended, the U.S. has accepted more than 3 million refugees. The U.S. expects to accept 70,000 refugees from all over the world this fiscal year, according to the White House.
From his Twitter account last November, Obama said protecting American people is his top priority, and the Syrian refugees would have the pass the highest security checks. America, he said, can ensure its own security while welcoming refugees desperately seeking safety from ISIL.
“Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do,” Obama twitted.
Here on Kaua‘i, we know that to survive, we need to give back. We know aloha. Thankfully, our president is Hawaiian; he knows aloha too.
It’s time to help the refugees and everyone else helping them. It’s time to give back to the world.