By Sean Wetselaar
On Sept. 2, a boy died fleeing Syria.
It was horrible and senseless, as the death of a child often is, and as many of the deaths in that part of the world have been. The three-year-old toddler drowned, along with his brother, his mother and 10 other Syrian refugees. The next day, the media shocked the world with pictures of the dead boy, face-down in the sand in Turkey.
But the sad truth, as many commentators in the past month have noted, is that over the course of the bloody civil war in Syria, there have likely been many Alan Kurdis who have gone unnoticed by the global community.
He may have been the wake-up call that the world needed, but after years of bloody war in the country, it seems like a wake-up call that came too late.
Much has been made in the media recently over a changing perspective of our country around the world. Gone are the days that we were seen as peacekeepers and global protectors. Now, we prefer to choose where we involve ourselves carefully, and often those involvements are far from peaceful.
But if the government is perhaps not ready to bring in as many Syrian refugees as we might once have — in other conflicts in other countries —Alan Kurdi put the pressure on the right people. Canada has pledged to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees ahead of schedule and local groups like Ryerson’s Lifeline Syria Challenge are an important part of that influx of immigration.
In fact, faced with changing priorities from our government, groups like Lifeline Syria -— which you will read about in our features section this week — may be exactly what we need.
Ryerson’s student body has been criticized for years for being too apathetic. We barely vote in our student union elections, we (historically) have very little school spirit and for many students, campus is a place to come, go to class and leave.
But here, faced with the worst refugee crisis of the century so far, the Ryerson community is leaping into action in a big way.
I think that’s pretty cool.
I could wax on here about our roots as an immigrant nation — where people have come fleeing countless conflicts in search of a better life. I could bore you with stories about how my own family immigrated in the wake of Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. But I think you probably know what country you live in, and what it means to you.
So instead, let me point out that we all have the power to help prevent another Alan Kurdi. If you don’t feel like getting involved in not-for-profits like Lifeline Syria, you can always chip in some money to help the cause — Ryerson’s effort has topped an impressive $270,000 to date. And at the very least you can stay informed about Syria, and try to spread the word. International eyes on the refugee crisis are a good thing, but the world has a short attention span.
As you’ll learn this week, Canada admitted 60,000 refugees in the ‘80s after a refugee crisis in the wake of Vietnam. We’ve only committed to a sixth of that figure.
So thanks for caring Ryerson. You’ve made a cynical editor smile. But we still have a lot of work to do.
So get back out there.