There is a civil war taking place in Syria.
Since the conflict began in 2011, the violence has taken 250,000 lives. Due to the unrest, 11 million people have been displaced from their homes—roughly 7 million internally and 4 million others are now refugees in neighboring countries. Having lost their homes to violence, these people have nowhere to go.
The European Union is planning to take in 160,000 refugees. The United States has already taken in 1,500. And President Obama recently pledged to welcome in 10 more thousand—a proposal that would need to get approval from Congress to actually take place.
Despite those efforts to fix the situation, millions are still struggling without a country to call home. Unable to gain acceptance into safe countries via legal immigration, some refugees have resorted to more desperate measures—in many cases with tragic consequences.
In one of the more tragic situations, a mother and two sons drowned in a failed attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to find asylum in Greece. Only Abdullah Kurdi—the father of the two boys—survived to tell the story. A picture of Kurdi’s lifeless three-year-old son lying facedown in a beach has drawn some much-needed attention to the seriousness of Syria’s refugee problem. But more needs to be done.
As we witness injustice like this unfold on the news, it’s easy to lose all hope and give in to thinking that there’s nothing we can do to help. Though it is easy to lose faith, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris isn’t ready to give up yet.
Sawiris—the CEO of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology—recently offered to purchase an uninhabited island off the coast of Greece or Italy to provide asylum to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Worth close to 2.9 billion, Sawiris has announced a “feasible” plan for providing a home—complete with housing, schools, and hospitals—for these struggling refugees who have nowhere to go.
In a news-cycle that’s dominated by negativity, Sawiris’ plan to spend millions from his own bank accounts to purchase an island to for thousands of displaced refugees is a refreshing dose of positivity. It’s a heroic move that we can all learn from.
Sawiris explains that witnessing images of Aylan Kurdi—Abdullah Kurdi’s three-year-old son who drowned with his mother and brother in their attempt to emigrate to Greece—was the spark that inspired him to decide: “I cannot just sit like that and just do nothing, you know, and pretend it’s not my problem.” Witnessing that suffering was the moment that moved Sawiris to take action.
Sawiris noticed a problem in the world community that didn’t sit right with him and decided that he was no longer going to just stand by and watch. He witnessed suffering taking place and decided that he was going to take a step further than just posting his thoughts about it on social media. He decided to take action. He made a commitment to doing something tangible, real, and impactful to help solve this Syrian refugee crisis.
It’s a heroic gesture that all of us learn from. The moral of the story is this: if you see suffering, injustice, pain, or some situation that doesn’t sit right with you taking place in the world, don’t just post a tweet or a status about it up on social media. TAKE ACTION.
Unfortunately, not all of us have access to 2.9 billion dollars. Unlike Naguib Sawiris, the grand majority of us don’t have enough funds to offer to buy an island every time a crisis takes place. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t help. You don’t have to be a billionaire to take action.
There are plenty of ways that you can fight pain, suffering, and injustice without spending huge sums of money. Write a letter. Create a petition. Sign a petition. Email your congressional representative. Write a blog post. Donate as much money as you can afford to give. Cook a meal. Help the homeless. Post up a video on YouTube. Run a marathon for charity. Write a book. Make a speech. Build a website. Start an organization. Do something.
There are countless ways that you can lend a helping hand to fight an injustice that doesn’t sit right with you. We should all follow Naguib Sawiris’ lead because even though he is worth a fortune, you don’t have to be a billionaire to help people in need.