World Refugee Day: Easing Hardships Through Faith

84 million.

A staggering number indeed. However, it is not the number of followers of your favourite celebrity on any social media platform nor the number of views raked in by a random viral video.

This number is part of a sobering reality; our shared realities in this day and age. Approximately 35 million children add up to the total of 84 million people forcibly displaced worldwide! This group of people – comparable to the population size of Germany or Turkey, are also known as refugees.

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And, with only about 143,000 of them being returned to their country of origin or resettled safely in 2021, this issue is nowhere near the finish line.

From wars and conflicts, persecutions of various stripes, natural disasters to exacerbated climate catastrophe, millions of people have been forced out of their homes and countries in order to survive. Alas, the continuous media coverage has a numbing effect on people by desensitising them of the very real issues and dangers that persist for generations.

Racing To Better Futures

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As we emerge from a global pandemic, there are many new emerging challenges intersecting with old issues, encompassing inflation, fuel prices to work life balance that trickles down to as basic as putting food on the table for the family, preoccupying our immediate attention. Putting it bluntly, it is about continued survival in a new normal.

But, what about these forgotten people?

The millions of voiceless and faceless individuals rendered powerless by circumstances outside of their control. Do they just remain part of statistics printed on pieces of paper for policymakers to mull over and academicians to scrutinise as time is ticking by, thus threatening their very lives while fleeing dangers?

World Refugee Day was first held on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Its significance lies in the urgent need to spotlight “the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilise political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive.”

At its core is the following essence: Every individual has a right to be safe.

You And I Need To Pay Attention

There are a myriad of ways with differing levels of effectiveness in moving the needle on any issue through social media. Sure, it does not have to be a grand gesture. Perhaps, a simple tweet expressing support for resources and government programmes targeting the challenges faced by refugees or retweeting accurate news stories in order to raise awareness could be a step in the right direction.

As always, another quick show of support is donating money to non-governmental organisations at local levels or even the UNHCR . It would momentarily help in easing those pangs of guilt that start bubbling with every flashing image of sleep and nutrition deprived children in news coverage on TV, or while browsing the internet on mobile phones on your commute to work. Carving out time and channelling energy to volunteer for programmes in support of refugees in your country of residence, be it at the community or national level, would help alleviating the dire situation in many ways.

Just as important is the need to educate ourselves on these very issues without waiting to be spoon-fed by news coverage.

حَدَّثَنَا مُسَدَّدٌ، حَدَّثَنَا مُعْتَمِرٌ، عَنْ حُمَيْدٍ، عَنْ أَنَسٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ انْصُرْ أَخَاكَ ظَالِمًا أَوْ مَظْلُومًا ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ هَذَا نَنْصُرُهُ مَظْلُومًا، فَكَيْفَ نَنْصُرُهُ ظَالِمًا قَالَ ‏”‏ تَأْخُذُ فَوْقَ يَدَيْهِ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

[Sahih al-Bukhari 2444]

Our Faith Easing Hardships

Easing hardships through faith, both continued hope in the betterment of collective future by appealing to our better humanity and through the lens of religious duty, as we constantly pair our prayers with meaningful actions is very demanding. It is a continual process with no expiration date attached.

As we pick up our tasbih or prayer beads to dhikr comfortably in the mosque or at home, or don the head shawl to uphold our modesty, spare a moment of reflection to those whom are living lives in a constant state of limbo. Their lack of opportunities and deprivations at some of the very fundamental levels should spark that fire within us to break into action. Evidently, thoughts and prayers are appreciated, but have been proven insufficient.

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So, what else is new? A truly sincere pledge to renew our faith in humanity by putting our faith into practice. No matter how we choose to make a difference on this pertinent issue, extinguish any sense of hopelessness while inching towards a better future for everyone. Whenever we choose to pray, it is first and foremost a commitment to Allah, but also serving as a reminder that we are accountable to shaping better futures for everyone. Our daily routine could very well be a privilege to someone else, which has been snatched away mercilessly.

June 20 is not just a standalone day where we channel all our attention and energy for 24 hours. Instead, take it as a timely reminder nudging us to be more proactive in life.