When I walked into the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, the current exhibit “Substrate: Underlying Currents” took my breath away. Once again Orcas Island artists Susan Singleton, Hannah Alex-Glasser, and Kandis Susol have collaborated and created an exhibition that touches the heart and inspires compassion in the face of human suffering. I encourage everyone to visit this beautiful show.
A small group gathered at the museum on March 20 to meditate and silently pray for the refugees of the world. We were inspired to do so by Susol’s piece entitled “Taking Refuge” which honors the plight of the 65 million people who have been displaced from their homes by violence and war, famine and climate change, political oppression and persecution. Not since World War II have so many people had to flee and seek sanctuary elsewhere.
A compassionate response requires understanding the extent of suffering experienced by these refugees. Ai Weiwei’s documentary film “Human Flow,” beautifully captures the breadth of the current human migration; Weiwei travels with the homeless families seeking safety and visits the refugee camps where the average length of time to be temporarily housed in this manner is 25 years.
When hearts are touched by the plight of refugees, it is natural to want to find ways to help with the basic necessities and provide opportunities to rebuild their lives. The current US immigration policy would have us close our hearts and borders instead of participating in the worldwide care of refugees.
Refugee camps desperately need resources, and we are given an opportunity to respond to the suffering of our fellow human beings. We could consider donating to organizations that directly serve refugees, such as the UN High Commission for Refugees, Doctors without Borders, or Mercy Corps.
Finally, I believe that the U.S. and all countries who profit from the sale of weapons of war must stop funding arms to countries in conflict and underwriting violence. Instead, it is time for the U.S. to turn its influence towards peace, reconciliation, and support of health, education, and opportunity.