Like it or not, the world is changing in ways that will bring people of different cultures together. Europe is currently facing a migrant crisis. Huge numbers of refugees are arriving on the borders of European countries looking for safety and the possibility of normal life. The difficulties faced by these people brings them closer to us. It is becoming more difficult to simply turn one’s back on people’s suffering.
Most of these refugees come from the Middle East (for example, Iraq and Syria), South-Central Asia (for example, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh), or Africa (for example, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan). Most are men but there are also large numbers of women and children.
What is causing this incredible movement of people? In some areas there is a long history of starvation, desperate insecurity, and disease associated with poor infrastructure. Imagine living in places where there is the constant threat of civil war, where little or no medical treatment is available for a wide variety of medical problems.
However, more than half of the migrants are currently arriving from Syria. The chaos in that country can be directly traced to military actions started by western countries. In May 2012, dozens of American war veterans threw away their medals; they claimed that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, were unjust. They said that the goal of these revenge attacks, staged after the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, was merely to steal oil and profit from people’s misery. British veterans have done the same thing. According to the war veterans, western militaries have been committing murder and torture. They say that these wars should themselves be regarded as terrorist actions. Is this exaggerated, or are our leaders often bad people who we cannot trust? Maybe we need to try harder to understand.
In any case, there is little doubt that these revenge attacks created incredible chaos leading to a dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees coming to Europe. Can we blame people for wanting to escape to safety? To understand problems of cross-cultural communication, it will be necessary to understand that people often come from countries where the situation is very different from the situation we experience. In the poorest developing countries, disease is a terrifying daily presence. Malaria still kills close to a million people a year. It is unlikely that better medication or vaccines will be developed to save people. Unless we can find straightforward ways to improve people’s lives in poor countries, we cannot expect people to be happy to stay at home.
The solution seems easy to state: stop causing wars and try to really help people. Don’t just try to profit from other people’s problems while pretending to help them. However, actually achieving this is incredibly difficult. First of all, it requires us to honestly try to understand people from other countries as real people facing real problems.
Anyway, check out the PowerPoint slides here.