Unsung heroes who rescue Syria’s refugees

Adapted from an article published in The Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 2016.

Syria’s war continues to drive civilians into exile. The diplomatic uncertainties about peace are high. Yet one good thing has remained constant during the five-year conflict: Ordinary residents in neighboring states continue to open their homes or come to the rescue of the refugees, who now number more than three million.

The 28-nation European Union is still in political crisis over its proper response to the flow of refugees. And Turkey’s officials have come under criticism for closing off some border crossings. As these leaders sort out their differences, however, volunteers in a network of solidarity are still welcoming the fleeing Syrians out of self-sacrifice.

This reality of hope was highlighted by a group of more than 230 Western academics and others who submitted nearly 700,000 signatures to nominate volunteers on the Greek islands near Turkey for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The petition chose three people to represent the rescue efforts—a grandmother, a fisherman, and Hollywood star Susan Sarandon. One of them, Emilia Kamvisi on the island of Lesbos, became famous last year because of a photo showing her bottle-feeding a Syrian infant.

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