Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

World Refugee Day

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 20, 2011

June 20th is World Refugee Day – a time for us to bring the plight of refugees into our society’s awareness. I think that at the center of the refugee experience is the issue of power, more specifically, the abuse of power.

To me power is the act of exerting one’s will over another. Everyday we find ourselves challenged on how to do this as individual people — which is the struggle we can have with personal morality — and ethics, a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about personal morality. One of the most obvious places that this comes into play is when an adult interacts with a child. Most of us instinctively know that it is our responsibility to protect children’s welfare, and this responsibility forces us to use power to ensure a child is safe. But the power differential between an adult and a child is in stark contrast. An adult may find themselves tempted to take certain liberties with a child that he or she would more rarely take with an adult — maybe a comment or criticism that is a bit too intrusive.

People don’t like to admit it but we are all very sensitive to power. As a social species nature has programmed us to seek order by determining each other’s power in relation to our own — do they have more power or less? Everything we do as a species, for good or for bad, requires actions that we regulate with power. Some of the starkest demonstrations of abuse of power is in the plight of refugees — the dictators, ethnic cleansing, and genocide these human beings flee from; their desperate attempts to survive; their resilience; the severe damage that others have people inflicted upon them.

But I think we shouldn’t let that blind us to all the other small and large abuses of power all around us everyday, and our own abuses of power in small and larger ways. To really honor the plight of refugees we must look at power, and especially how we use power against others, and how we take no action when others abuse their power. We must be the change we want to see in the world or the world will not change.

One Response to “World Refugee Day”

  1. nancylee1 said

    With every day that goes by, big business combined with government, assaults working people the world over through illegal and immoral wars, bad banking practices, trading schemes, tax evasion, land grabs, pollution and the destruction of social services. Social funds and civil rights are constantly cut in the name of protecting and bringing democracy to the same people that suffer due to these cuts in a horrible global economy that does not allow most a living wage.

    It is important for us to not only help and mentor refugees, but to also realize how close all of us are to being refugees in our own countries. Until we speak out and band together against these practices, this vicious cycle will continue and refugees will be forced from their homes, unable to work and sustain their families, let alone get educated and receive medical care.

    One of the biggest factors in making this destructive cycle possible is the military. Without this volunteer group of people that go out and follow orders decimating countries and innocent citizens, much of this cycle would cease to function. Corporations like Halliburton, GE, the oil industry, etc, etc, etc would have no way to move into other countries and take advantage.

    So on World Refugee Day, I think it is most important to think about what goes into the making of a refugee and also what is necessary to stop it. The realization that war solves nothing and only creates problems needs to be talked about everywhere in every community so that patriotism and the spoils of war are seen for what they truly are, the destruction of innocent people for the enrichment of a few.

    Here is a very interesting interview from Democracy Now that illustrates just how pervasive this cycle is.

    If you don’t watch Democracy Now on a regular basis, you are missing out on a lot of what goes on worldwide, every day, right under our noses.

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