How fortunate we are compared to Syrian refugees

By Fr Michael Commane - The Way i See It

Published 22/09/2015 | 00:00

Within the last fortnight Aldi opened a new megastore in Dublin's Terenure. In the immediate days before Aldi opened and in the first days of the new store, nearby Lidl offered a 20 per cent reduction on all its groceries. I went up to Lidl. The shop was mobbed. One store assistant said to me that he had never seen anything like it. It was the last day of the promotion. It was bedlam and Dublin's south side shoppers were close to panic. And were they showing it.

The previous week I was in northern Lebanon, visiting Syrian refugees. They are living in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tents and being supported by Concern Worldwide. I work in the Concern press office so that's why I was there. There are approximately 50 to 60 tents on each encampment and every tent holds roughly 30 people or five families. Lebanon was in the throes of one of its worst ever sandstorms. The temperature was close to 40 degrees Celsius. It was new territory for me.

In Bebnine, a 30-minute drive from the city of Halba, I met Abdullah Al-Hamad, who lives in one of these tents with his family. He explained why they had left Syria and come to Lebanon. They pay $50 a month to live in the tent supplied by the UNHCR. While he was talking someone brought a tray into the tent with small cups of tea for the visitors. In the midst of such turmoil, such pain and suffering our Syrian hosts had the grace to offer us freshly brewed tea.

Scrambling around the Lidl store in Terenure that Sunday my mind went back to my Syrian hosts in Lebanon. Not for a moment am I saying that Lidl shoppers, Irish people, are any different from Syrian refugees. Maybe it has something to do with wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we cope in what we think is an appropriate fashion.

Seeing with my own eyes how Syrian refugees are forced to live, I keep saying how fortunate I am. Talking to someone about the Syrian refugee crisis, she immediately reminded me of the number of homeless people living in Dublin.

For the life of me I can't understand why the powerful and influential, the great world political leaders can't sit down and stop this current war in Syria, indeed, sit down and stop all wars.

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper last week, Russia proposed back in 2012 that Syria's Bashar al-Assad cede power at some time after peace talks had taken place between the Assad government and the opposition. The former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari said that the US, France and Britain ignored the Russian proposal as they were convinced the Syrian dictator was about to fall.

Who's supplying all the weaponry for this barbarism? It's certainly not the refugees I met. I can only imagine the profits from all the weaponry, the soldiers' boots and uniforms flow back to wealthy people. It allows them live in great style and opulence.

I'm inclined to think that Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the British Labour Party is saying some prophetic things. He has spent his life campaigning against the madness of war. Jeremy and I have a few things in common. One being we are the same age.

Wexford People

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