Manila Bulletin

Our role in hu­man­ity (2)

- By FLORO MERCENE Middle East News · Politics · Immigration · Society · Myanmar · Philippines · International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement · European Union · Syria · Iran · Iraq · Afghanistan · Turkey · Nigeria · Kosovo · Jean-Claude Juncker · Middle East · Africa · Hungary · Statue of Liberty · Philippine National Red Cross · Richard Gordon

RE­CENTLY, we ac­cepted the Ro­hingya mi­nori­ties flee­ing Burma, the first coun­try to of­fer shel­ter af­ter other South­east Asian neigh­bors blocked them from en­ter­ing.

“The Philip­pines has ex­tended hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to Viet­namese ‘boat peo­ple’ and we shall con­tinue to do our share in sav­ing lives,” says Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sec­re­tary Mala­canang Her­minio Coloma.

Philip­pine Red Cross Chair­man Richard Gor­don pointed out that the Philip­pines has a long history of help­ing mi­grants. Aside from the Jews es­cap­ing the Holo­caust in 1940, we also ad­mit­ted White Rus­sians in 1923, Chi­nese refugees flee­ing com­mu­nism in 1949, and Span­ish Repub­li­cans in 1939.

To­day, a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion chal­lenges the rest of the civ­i­lized world.

Europe in par­tic­u­lar, is han­dling the cri­sis with mixed re­ac­tions.

Are they go­ing to ac­cept the thou­sands of asy­lum seek­ers flee­ing the war in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanista­n, Tur­key, Nige­ria, Kosovo, and sub-Sa­ha­ran coun­tries?

Cit­ing history, moral­ity, and eco­nom­ics, Jean-Claude Juncker, the Euro­pean Union’s top ex­ec­u­tive, urged the bloc to set aside deep di­vi­sions over wel­com­ing refugees from war-torn and pover­tys­tricken na­tions in the Mid­dle East and Africa and forge a stronger and more uni­fied re­sponse.

Al­lud­ing to the bar­rier be­ing built by Hungary to stem the flow of mi­grants, he said: “We can build walls, we can build fences. But imag­ine for a sec­ond it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you. There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not sail, no bor­der you would not cross, if it is war or the bar­barism of the so-called Is­lamic State you are flee­ing.”

We can do no less. We led the world in com­pas­sion 75 years ago and there’s no rea­son that we can’t do it again to­day.

Re­mem­ber that death­less prose adorn­ing the base of the Statue of Lib­erty? “Give me your tired, your poor, Your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teem­ing shore.

Send these, the home­less, tem­pest­tossed to me,

I lift my lamp be­side the golden door!”

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