I have been interested in the plight of refugees most of my life and recently I had reason to sympathize more strongly when I had to flee the wildfire in Fort McMurray, AB. It was a terrifying and horrific experience – one I hope I will never have to experience again as long as I live. People have been amazing and no words will ever be able to convey my gratitude for all the kindnesses visited upon all evacuees, myself included. In fact many centres are receiving more donations than they have room for, which is a testament to the generosity of people in AB and across the country. Many towns are operating fund raisers to help the people of Fort McMurray or “Fort Mac” as it is affectionately known – or just “the Mac”. My family has jokingly referred to themselves as refugees form the Mac….which leads me to the point of this blog…
Refugees are indeed people fleeing from natural disasters; from war; from persecution on a wide variety of grounds. So does that make us refugees? Perhaps! But to my mind there is no comparison to the people who survived tsunamis, the disaster in Japan a few years ago, or the horrors people of any number of developing countries fleeing wars, natural disasters, etc. have experienced.
As we raced away from the wildfires enveloping our city people were quick to mobilize to help. Ordinary citizens brought gas cans for those stranded along the highway. Perfect strangers paid for meals, strangers offered to house evacuees, the list of kindnesses is very long and very inspiring.
But compare this to a person fleeing their homeland such as the Syrians fleeing civil war, terror, and persecution. For many refugees there is no place to go, no water to drink, no food, and no resources. They may have to trudge on foot for many miles before they reach any kind of refuge or help. They face danger around nearly every bend and arrive exhausted, shell-shocked, and, in many cases, barely alive. While the race away from Fort McMurray was traumatic for many, if not most, of the residents of Fort Mac it cannot compare to what I have learned refugees around the world experience, and that is not to make light of my fellow citizens’ challenges or the pain and heartbreak everybody has experienced to varying degrees. However, there has been minimal loss of life and we will eventually go back to the Mac to rebuild our lives. Unfortunately, for many refugees in other parts of the world, there is no such luxury as going home.