We are currently witnessing the worst refugee crisis of our era, with 65.3 million forcibly displaced people and 21.3 million refugees worldwide.
War, persecution and natural disasters, among other reasons, have pushed millions from their homes.
You'd think this would inspire wealthy countries to lend a helping hand. Sadly, this has not been the case, which is what Melissa Fleming, the head of communications for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), discusses in an insightful post for Humans of New York.
In the post, which has gone viral, Fleming talks about how difficult it's been to draw attention to the refugee crisis, despite how large it is and the millions it impacts:
For the last eight years I've been the head of communications for the UN Refugee Agency. My job is to make people care about the sixty million displaced people in the world. I wish I could tell every single one of their stories. Because if people knew their stories, I don't think there would be so many walls. And there wouldn't be so many people drowning in the seas. But I don't think I anticipated how difficult it would be to make people care.
She then explained why she thinks people struggle to show compassion over this issue:
It's not that people are selfish. I just think that people have a hard time caring when they feel insecure. When the world is unstable, people feel vulnerable. And vulnerable people focus on protecting what they have. They focus on their own families. They focus on their own communities. It can be very hard to welcome strangers when you're made to feel threatened. Even if those strangers are more vulnerable than you.
What Fleming seems to be referencing is the fact many feel that accepting refugees increases the risk of terror attacks. Rhetoric from politicians like President Donald Trump, among others, certainly doesn't help in this regard.
The truth is, refugees don't pose a major terror threat. In the US, for example, just three refugees have been arrested over terrorism since 9/11.
But, with so much misinformation running around, and the threat of terrorism exaggerated both in the media and by politicians, it's easy to understand why some struggle to be comfortable with the idea of letting in more refugees.
With that said, it's important that we continue to search for the facts, and ensure that some of the world's most vulnerable people get the assistance they so desperately need.
If people knew their stories, I don't think there would be so many walls.
The world is less stable when millions of people are displaced. It's in everyone's interests to help address the global refugee crisis.
Fleming is right: If more people knew the individual stories of refugees and stopped seeing them as just one large, potentially dangerous group, they'd be far more likely to help.
These people are not so different from any of us; they've simply been placed in a terrible situation many of us can barely begin to fathom.