UN Op-Ed

When the unknown becomes less frightening: The "Together" campaign- by Christelle Barakat, Lebanese American University (LAU)
In 2015, one picture single-handedly took the world by storm. Sadly, it wasn't the kind of picture that one would think of; for, it had no celebrities in it, no glamorous awards, no flashing spotlights. It was a picture of another kind; one of a small child lying face down on a Turkish shore, tiny, vulnerable and lifeless.

I have chosen to leave his name out because to me, that child symbolizes all refugees: their vulnerability, their desperation, and their innocence. Taking it a step further, this young boy did not choose his fate, neither do refugees when they are forced to leave their homes, as happiness becomes a futile term and survival becomes the number one priority. Unfortunately, many people around the world look at refugees as the different "other" who has come to take their jobs, welfare, money or anything of the sort.

Indeed, refugees are discriminated, marginalized, feared and treated as outcasts. What we have to understand as human beings is that no one throws himself/herself into the sea, risking his/her life if there was a better alternative to doing so. Moreover, one thing we do not realize is that children constitute a big portion of refugees and that the very idea of being a child means added vulnerability and fear but most importantly, being child is about not knowing the meaning of "being different".

The very refugees that some people are afraid of are actually shorter than one foot, with angelic faces and pure hearts. These children absorb what we teach them; in other words, teach a child how to accept the different other, he/she will grow into a tolerant person, but teach him/her how to discriminate, and the world will become more of a darker place than it already is.

In 2016, acknowledging the urgency of the matter, and wanting to put an end to the negative stereotypes, perceptions and attitudes that many people have about refugees, the United Nations launched the "Together" campaign which promotes respect, safety and dignity for all refugees. I believe this campaign to be a beacon of hope within a bleak world where refugee influxes are on the rise with each passing day. "Together" focuses on the fact that refugees are first and foremosthuman beings, beyond any racial, ethnic, and religious affiliations. Throughout numerous activities, this campaign seeks to build a sense of solidarity in the effort of "leaving no one behind".

Dear readers on the other side of the screen, I urge you to put yourselves in the shoes of refugees - refugees who might be affected by the crises to the extent of not having any shoes left to walk in - and try to see the world through their eyes. Lastly, I want you to consider the following: most of the time we whine and wallow, not wanting to leave the safety and warmth of our beds in the morning to attend to our daily lives. Bearing that in mind, how would you feel if you were forced to leave your home altogether, and even more so, your country, to sail the waters towards the unknown?

Christelle Barakat
Lebanese American University (LAU)

Staff writer at Mosaic
Political science and international affairs, 1st year

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