Few could have predicted the chaos that Donald Trump would unleash mere days into his presidency. Not more than two weeks in, he has issued an executive order on immigration that has ignited outrage, mass protest and created a political crisis. As a result, we are in the midst of severe upheaval; the order has suspended all Sirian refugee admissions from the US indefinitely and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries (whether they be refugees or not), from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for the next 90 days.
A silver lining (small though it may be) is that these unjustifiable acts have evoked a phenomenal reaction from people around the world. They – we – are not sitting in silence. We are shouting; demanding change, taking to the streets by the millions. We feel glum, but there is still a feeling of resolution – that if we use our voices (really use them), we can hope that soon some sense of order will be restored. The way forward is to keep pushing, using our platforms to tell those suffering, we don’t and will not accept this, and you are not fighting alone.
Public figures have the biggest platforms, and activist Angelina Jolie is the latest to challenge Trump (without ever referring to him by name) in a powerful op-ed in the New York Times.
Jolie, who has served as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that discriminating based on religion was “playing with fire.”
If we send a message that it is acceptable to close the door to refugees, or to discriminate among them on the basis of religion, we are playing with fire.
As the mother of six children, “all born in foreign lands and … proud American citizens,” she said decisions should be “based on facts, not fear.”
“I also want to know that refugee children who qualify for asylum will always have a chance to plead their case to a compassionate America. And that we can manage our security without writing off citizens of entire countries – even babies – as unsafe to visit our country by virtue of geography or religion,” she added. “By implying Muslims are less worthy of protection, we fuel extremism abroad.”
And to further emphasise the severity of the situation – 60 million refugees are currently displaced from their homes – but why it’s so important to have hope, this week’s Lenny Letter, interviewed Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about her new book A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea. It tells the story of Doaa, a victim of the Syrian regime whose life was marred by horror and tragedy but who kept on fighting and never lost hope. And, she says, that story should give us all the more reason to hope.
“Doaa’s story, her positive spirit and her will to move beyond, gave me a lot of strength. My perspective on my life has deepened, like so many refugees — stripped of everything, most important are the people you love. What the human spirit can endure and survive [is a marvel], especially where there is hope and love,” said Fleming.