Today, we mark World Refugee Day, amidst the most challenging and troubling time for global refugee protection since World War II. It is time to turn the global focus away from the cruel and illegal means now used to keep refugees away; and instead embrace our shared international responsibility to ensure they are safe.
A decade ago, the world came together and mobilized for immediate humanitarian intervention to end the genocide in Darfur. The present reality, however, is that the battle is far from over. Unfortunately, the Government of Canada is missing in action, reducing its international assistance to Sudan even as the human needs on the ground continue to grow.
South Sudan, the world's youngest country, did not mark its third anniversary on July 9 by celebrating, but by struggling to survive what the United Nations (UN) recently described as one of the gravest humanitarian and political crises in the world's history. The question that begs to be asked is will the Canadian Government now provide a second round of humanitarian funding? Thousands of children are at risk of dying this year.
It may be a crime under shariah but it is the legend of Muhammad who befriended Christians, Jews and Pagans, gave women rights, never persecuted gays and lesbians and spoke out against the rich, established tribes of Mecca. Where would he be if he was alive today? According to shariah law, Muhammad would be in jail, labeled an infidel.
Will the Government of Canada support the threatened peace talks in Addis Ababa by offering mediators to the warring parties and other stakeholders? Will it support civil society coalitions, which are working for reconciliation inside South Sudan? If the violence does not stop, South Sudan could slip further into ethnic conflict.
While the UN Security Council holds urgent talks and Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon urges dialogue to resolve the Ukraine crisis, other areas of crisis fall to the back pages of newspapers. Yet, four level-three emergencies are currently affecting children: the Central African Republic, the Philippines, South Sudan, and Syria. The three conflicts are claiming lives and childhoods.
What have you heard about Burma, Tibet, Northern Cyprus? Even less than Syria, North Korea, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Don't look. Pretend it's not happening-or pretend that efforts at peace will work-if we just give it enough time. Rwanda took more than 100 days. The Jewish people waited five years. Syria has been in conflagration for three years. Talk. Talk. Talk. Well maybe there will be talk. But then who's listening. The media? There is a certain presence of an absence in far too many hot spots.
On July 8, South Sudan celebrated its first year of independence. Although the independence marked the end of over five decades of conflict, the future of its citizens remains bleak. Individuals living in this country are still unable to access even the most basic of necessities including food, security, shelter and education. As Canadians we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by the comforts that we are so fortunate to enjoy.
There are an estimated 12 million displaced people on the planet at this moment and most of them are children. News of this came around the same time as the controversy surrounding Bill C-31, and the way the Harper government wants to crack down on immigration and refugees. But this World Refugee Day, let's be careful and conscious in our assessment of exactly who these people are.
I was in a meeting recently in which an MP accused the government and Stephen Harper of being "evil" and "the enemy." I have heard the Prime Minister use that language himself on more than one occasion. The hurling of insults across the aisle of Parliament has now become a pandemic -- no respect, no dignity, no results.