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LOEWEN: How to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
November 18, 2015 - 8:04 AM

We live in troubling times. And despite the temptation to see the tragic recent attack upon innocent victims in Paris through an apocalyptic filter, we are not teetering on the edge of global catastrophe. Not yet.

We need to keep reminding ourselves of the unassailable reality that attacks like the one witnessed on November 13th are symptomatic of historical trajectories that pre-date their occurrence by months and years, if not decades.

The central question is: How to respond.

If my Facebook wall and Twitter feed is indicative of the way that many would like to respond to the emergence of ISIS as the global pariah of the moment, it would seem that ISIS has largely succeeded in its terrorist aim to destabilize Western societies through the fomenting of fear and Muslim-directed hate.

In incredibly short order, even Canadian citizens, formerly sympathetic to the plight of over four million folks displaced by civil war and aggressive bombings in Syria and elsewhere, are calling for bloody retribution.

The true benefactors of the perpetual war on terror must be immensely pleased.

Marlene Klassen is a Canadian visual artist and illustrator based in Toronto. Her work can be viewed at www.marleneklassen.com and https://instagram.com/marleneklassen/
Marlene Klassen is a Canadian visual artist and illustrator based in Toronto. Her work can be viewed at www.marleneklassen.com and https://instagram.com/marleneklassen/
Image Credit: Marlene Klassen, "Committee." Oil on Mylar, 2015.

Sitting around their corporate conference tables, the Masters of War — business elites presiding over economic empires created out of the dissemination of junk bonds, petrofuels, weaponry, pharmaceuticals and “the news” itself — are surely tracking their year-end bonuses as the planet plummets into seemingly unappeasable ruin.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

I was reminded yesterday by Heath Lowrence, an American writer-friend, that, “For a country to take in refugees is an act of decency AND bravery.” I agree with my American friend.

His words are a reminder that we are stronger through our ability to get along with others. Even if we are not, individually, intimately knowledgeable of their foreign cultures and traditions. That’s why we rely upon our strong civil service and our foreign service, and upon non-governmental agencies and relief workers in theatres of conflict, to engage with our fellows abroad and to do the difficult but invaluable work of vetting those that are in such obvious need before they are welcomed into our country.

To suggest that it is “highly likely” that there will be terrorists amongst the refugees that the Liberal government has promised (as Stockwell Day frothed on yesterday’s telecast of CBC’s “Power and Politics”) is irresponsible, cowardly, and unsubstantiated. It reminds us of similar pronouncements by the former MP who pointed to the “alarming rise in unreported crime” as justification for the draconian Conservative “Tough on crime” agenda. His pronouncements were laughable in 2010, and they’re ugly and unwelcome in 2015.

More germane to the issues at hand, are the thoughts of French journalist, Nicolas Henin, himself an ISIS hostage for over ten months. Yesterday he wrote: “Central to (ISIS’) world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence. The pictures from Germany of people welcoming migrants will have been particularly troubling to them. Cohesion, tolerance – it is not what they want to see.”

I want to think of Canada as a country that welcomes the refugees of the world. Surely we are large-hearted enough, brave enough, to make a place for others who live with such meagre hopes of ever finding stable homes again. We haven’t always comported ourselves with such dignity, and over the course of the last decade, many from across the world have wondered whatever happened to our compassionate good nature.

After we successfully re-settle those whose lives deserve better than crowded encampments where ISIS can find fuel for their hateful fight the longer refugees are allowed to languish there, perhaps we can then begin to go after the real terrorists in our midst: the Masters of War themselves and the hateful political economy that keeps them so much better off than the rest.

— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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