Why Refugees are Justified in Fleeing Syria

The Doctors Without Borders Hospital hit by an air strike in Aleppo (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

The killing of innocent civilians in Syria continues.   The air strike on an Aleppo hospital run by Doctors Without Borders killed patients, medical workers and visitors.  There are no “safe havens” in Syria at all.  When hospitals are attacked any semblance of civilization and hope for a normal life has vanished.  This devestating attack typifies why Syrians are seeking refuge outside of their country and are justified to do so.  Read more about the hospital attack here.

Since returning from Greece and Serbia where our @CatholicRelief delegation met with refugees and aid workers I have been privileged to present to many religious and civic groups about the real causes and consequences of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the Balkans and Northern Europe.  I have been asked numerous times why refugees flee instead of fighting or staying.  Both questions are easy to  answer.

First, it is not possible for an unarmed, untrained civilian population to fight any army or group of armed rebels.  Living here in the southern United States I have offered this historical example for comparison.  In 1864 Union General William T. Sherman and his 112,000 troops attacked and fairly quickly captured the entire State of Georgia.  At the time, the population of the state was just over 1 million.  Facing an armed Confederate Army and a population that had a 10:1 advantage over his troops he still swept through the state.  He was able to do that simply because an organized army can fight very effectively against a disorganized populace. Whether Georgia in 1864 or Syria in 2016, armies will subdue a population.

To answer why Syrians don’t just stay all one must do is point to the air strike on the Aleppo hospital, the devastation of cities that 10 years ago were modern and thriving, the 250,000 Syrian civilians who have died as ‘collateral damage’ in the war and the Syrian people’s disgust and fear of ISIS.  Would anyone who had the resources and sanity to take their family to a place of safety not leave?  It is amazing that only 5 million people have become refugees.

So, what can we do?  More support of the international humanitarian aid agencies is neede to help those who have fled.  As a CRS Global Fellow I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest directing a gift to the cause at http://www.crs.org.  CRS and Caritas are two of many agencies serving the needs of the displaced Syrian population.  We can also advocate for these voiceless victims of war and persecution by contacting our governmental officials and urging them provide greater support for refugees, strive to contain or destroy ISIS,  and intervene in a meaningful way to encourage a ceasefire and peace talks among the warring parties.  Remaining silent should not be an option for us.  Peace!


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