By Mallory Caron
Mercy Corps tells us that 11 million people have been killed or forced to flee from Syria. It’s easy to get lost in the intangible statistics and forget that these numbers are representative of real people. It is important to understand their individual stories.
The story that I’d like to tell is of Marwan, a man whose ability to endure is staggering. At the beginning of the war in Syria he was sent to Hama. Refusing to participate in active shelling areas he was forced to go into hiding at a friend’s house, from which he planned to flee to Turkey. On the same day he and his friends left, the army began shelling. Marwan watched as his arm was torn away from the rest of his body. His left eye was blinded by shrapnel. Marwan received the modest medical attention that was available in his home country, and in neighboring Turkey. Hoping to receive further care, Marwan recounts in his UNHCR account that he and his friends decided to “unite Asia and Europe by swimming!” And so they swam–for over an hour, Marwan with one arm and one working eye. They all made it and are currently seeking asylum in Europe.
Like Marwan, we must not lose hope. We must push on until we find what we are looking for. Marwan’s story serves to remind us that refugees are people with stories and pasts, people that deserve to be respected and helped. They are not helpless, merely placed in hopeless situations and forced not to lose faith. These people may be part of a statistic, but they do not deserve to be dehumanized. In this time of fear and uncertainty we must open our arms and remember that we are all merely human.