Let’s say you had to move away. Actually, let’s say you had to move far away—like, outside-of-your-country far away.
In this scenario, the economy has gotten so bad that nobody—not even the most skilled individuals—can find work anymore. If you want to live comfortably or even put food on your table, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Or, you grew up in a low-income family, but you studied hard, defied all expectations and earned a spot at the best university in the world, located somewhere across the sea. This is an incredible opportunity that would forever change your life and that of your family.
Or, there’s violent civil war in your country. The most recent election was hotly contested and the military staged a coup in an attempt to retain power and maintain civil order, pitting faction against faction and neighbor against neighbor. There are bullet holes in your windows and the inside of your house is covered in dust and dirt from the constant artillery shelling in the city. There’s no more electricity and tap water, and several of your family members have already died.
So, what would you do in each of those situations? Would you actually leave?
Those are only a few of the many reasons people might choose to become migrants and leave their homes. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice to leave, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, the reason for leaving is positive and happy, and sometimes (more often, actually) the reason is not so optimistic.
Right now, at this very moment, there are more forcibly displaced people than there have been since World War II. Many are “refugees,” who were actually able to leave their country in search of new homes and communities where they can live and learn and work. Others are internally displaced, and aren’t able to reach safety outside of their homeland.
or people who didn’t really have a choice when it came to staying or leaving—who probably don’t want to leave but are now looking for new homes and communities where they can live and learn and work.
Tragically, many of them don’t ever reach asylum. Thousands die while trying to reach safety via dangerous land and sea routes just in the last few years.
If you did have to move away—far away—how would you want people to think about you? How would you want them to treat you?
The next time you hear about migrants or refugees in the news or in politics, think about the reality of the situation for these people and their actual lives. Should you welcome them into your community with open arms and understanding (like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously did)?
Or, should you reject them on the basis of that they might be dangerous (which isn’t really true)?
In reality, it’s the migrants who have usually faced danger—leaving behind family, friends, relationships and any sense of normalcy to make their way across treacherous terrain in order to reach the border that promises safety.
Which means that migrants are some of the most courageous, resilient and resourceful people on the planet. They are more than people in need—they are people wanting to give and make a meaningful contribution to society.
After all, remember what the most famous refugee, Jesus Christ, went on to do.
International Migrants Day is on Dec. 18. The International Organization for Migration is calling on the international community to come together and remember the refugees and migrants who have lost their lives or have disappeared while trying to reach safe harbor after arduous journeys across seas and deserts.
Andrew Romanov is a Fellow at the U.N. for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).
The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the U.N. (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.