Greece (MNN) — Something happens when a needy child grows into an adult. Where their need used to garner empathy and even assistance, the same plight as an adult produces suspicion and disinterest. The refugee crisis has brought this phenomenon to the forefront in the cruelest way. Right now, there’s a Greek island housing 2,500 individuals from one of the most distrusted groups on the planet — young, single, refugee men. The focus on this demographic has been so steadily negative that most have turned away without asking how they can be helped.
Dale Dieleman of Tent Schools International asks: “When the camera switches to a young, adult male, what is the first thing that comes to people’s mind? Is it, ‘He could be a terrorist?’ I think a lot of people go there quickly in their minds.”
In this case, the “what ifs” have caused people to turn their back on refugees. But this course of action actually increases the risks everyone is so afraid of.
Finding the root problem
As long as the refugee crisis is allowed to continue, more children are growing up with a bleak future. The island in question is no exception. There is nothing for these young men to fill their days with. The vacuum of purpose and hope has caused one humanitarian group to reach out to Tent Schools for help.
“Their biggest concern is radicalization, that these young men may be picked up and recruited by terrorist organizations because they have no hope, they have no sense of a future. And if someone can use them, if they have a cause, they’ll go for it.”
Tent Schools believes there are simple ways to reestablish purpose. Applicable job training, for instance, is one way to open the doors of the future. The group is looking to set up computer labs that will allow some men to work on the island, and others to get training that could help them move to the mainland. It isn’t complicated, and it could be the key to protect these men from radicalization and a destructive future.
“This is a frontline battle area that we need to be engaged in as organizations, as people who are concerned about the future of these young men.”
An attitude that hurts
And yet, very few seem willing to step up and help initiatives like this. Dieleman explains the overall neglect is contributing to what he calls “sure steps to radicalization” of these men.
First, we discount their value as human beings with potential, dreams, and valuable skills. Second, we isolate them from society. Thirdly, in this isolation, they are removed from opportunities for personal growth. We undermine any hope they have to escape refugee camps. And finally, we make and believe stereotypes about these people.
“And then, it’s not a very big step to say they deserve no empathy, they deserve no help, they deserve nothing, they don’t deserve our humanitarian aid, they don’t even deserve our prayers,” he says.
All of this begins with our perception of them. Dieleman says as long as our line of thinking automatically leads us to consider them criminals without any proof or background, then “we don’t even see them the way that God sees them.”
The first step to help, he continues, is to challenge that automatic way of thinking. Consider how you can challenge others around you to think with compassion and to consider being part of the solution. Until we do, Dieleman says, nobody is going to help organizations who are trying to save these men caught in a physical, spiritual, and mental no-man’s land.
The second way to help is to pray and ask for God’s guidance. Ask God to bring transformation to these camps through the Gospel, and through the work of people who love Jesus.
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