Statement from U.S. Senate Candidate Dr. Rad (Branko Radulovacki, MD) on the Syria Refugee Crisis
Two months ago, Georgia’s Republican senators – and Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn — announced their support for bombing Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons. Thankfully, President Obama chose to follow the path of diplomacy that I, and many Georgia citizens, strongly favored. Diplomatic efforts succeeded, and Syria’s chemical weapons are now scheduled for destruction.
Along with diplomacy, I called on our country to lead a worldwide response to the Mideast’s rapidly-growing refugee crisis. That escalating crisis has since exploded. A quarter of Syria’s population is now displaced or actively fleeing the country. Neighboring countries – Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey – are overwhelmed by escaping Syrians, and basic resources are strained to their limits. This threatens to further destabilize a region already considered a powder keg.
As we gather in relative peace and safety with our families – enjoying Thanksgiving meals, the first days of Hanukkah, and the start of the Christmas shopping season – why should we care? How does a humanitarian crisis half a world away impact us here in Georgia – and do we have any obligation to respond?
Atlanta’s International Rescue Committee has stepped up. They’ve sent representatives into refugee camps to provide medical and emergency supplies, clean water and sanitation. They’ve also provided refugees much-needed information on how to access humanitarian aid. Is that enough response?
By the end of 2014, experts predict 1.5% of all Syrian refugees will be resettled to countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and Germany. A portion of them will likely wind up in Clarkston, GA. That helps – a little, but still leaves 98.5% of Syrians displaced. Is that really our problem?
I believe it is. We, as Georgians and as a nation, have a moral and ethical obligation to do more. As theologian and social activist Jim Wallis observes, “We naturally seek and hide behind our created boundaries to excuse ourselves from loving those who are different or removed from us, but the Good Samaritan parable stands right in the way of that.”
In other words, we have a responsibility to the helpless among us – whether here in Georgia, or halfway around the world. What can and should we do in the face of the greatest refugee crisis in decades? We must put aside partisan rhetoric and anti-administration fervor in favor of an all-out effort to stabilize the Middle East through humanitarian aid. A stable Mideast increases the world’s safety; an unstable one puts the world at ever-greater risk.
Whether our response is motivated by a collective sense of heartfelt obligation, spiritual compassion, or protective self-interest, we must follow diplomacy with humanitarian help and hope – in the true spirit of the season.