The words of a Syrian refugee in the Greek press had me rummaging for words to respond. Promptly. Before it’s too late.

Before he took those steps to return; before he let go of the last bursts of hope that make him the vulnerable human that he is. Before… alas, it is too late.

He said: “A message to the whole world. What is happening in Syria is beyond imagination. They kill us for no reason, imprison us, torture us to death. We leave after being chased and try to live with dignity.
“In Turkey they try to exploit us and we try to get to Greece. In this effort, we drown and volunteers of all faiths and atheists try to help us. And we discover that governments exploit the war in Syria in order to achieve their political objectives. And we lose our dignity, we get tired, we drown and die on the way to what we think is paradise, the European Union…”

“I lost everything. Those who I loved. My Father, my mother, my wife and my five brothers. I arrived in Athens… and I made sure it was not paradise… I decided to go back to a certain death in Syria. Where I buried those who I loved. I thank all the volunteers and all peoples of all religions. I don’t thank any government.”

As a veteran volunteer in Lesvos, I want to thank him for thanking me, even though I also want to let him know that there is no need for gratitude; it’s only human to tend to those in need.

Although I understand his need to ‘go home’, I find it pertinently unjust to let him go: however soothing a ‘certain death’ may be. It was this crunch of hopelessness I feared to confront while working within the refugee crisis. My fear is now a reality.

More so than ever. In all admiration for his courage, silence envelopes my thoughts. I have no response.

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