There are currently 65 million displaced people or refugees in the world now. That is not a small number.
Unfortunately, all these displaced people searching for new or even temporary homes have a hard time because of government and individual attitudes to refugees.
United States Presidential nominee, Donald Trump is talking about building walls to shut people out. Europe is scared to let them in and even right here in Africa, there is talk of a plan by the government of Kenya to shut down the world’s biggest refugee camp, the Dadaab refugee camp.
You would not know this if you had watched the Olympic opening ceremony and observed how the Refugee Olympic team (Team Refugees) had been received with a standing ovation.
You would not know it if you saw President Obama’s tweets about the 10 athletes who “prove that you can succeed no matter where you’re from” or for that matter if you saw Samantha Power’s (United States ambassador to the United Nations) Facebook video post where she speaks of Team Refugees with near awe and states that they “are dreaming bigger because you’re doing what you’re doing.”
The Refugee Olympic Team has moved the world and why wouldn’t they? They have survived near impossible odds to be where they are now but they and their stories are only a minuscule fraction of 65 million such stories of grave odds.
Sixty-five million people who are fleeing home and searching for better odds. Sixty-five million people who are often turned away at our borders and thought the worst of or are not even remembered at all.
It is not easy to throw open the doors for refugees, no one says that it is but Team Refugees is here to remind us that refugees are people too. People with dreams, people who we must allow ourselves to feel for and not merely forget or fear as dangerous and disruptive.
The Refugee Olympic team is inspirational but the Olympics will be over in less than two weeks, as Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, rightly states of the intention of the organizers; “We want to send a message of hope for all refugees in our world.”
The question that we all must now ask ourselves even as we receive the message is if we will remember it when the Games are in our rearview. Hopefully, we will.