Thursday, September 3, 2015

Where Is Our Humanity?

I can no longer bear to watch Syrian and African refugees suffering and dying as they try to reach Europe, in search of a better life, free from fear. Has the world become less compassionate & more inured to our fellow humans' suffering?

Photos: "Europe Migrant Crisis," the BBC
Pretty certain that I and the majority of my ONE MILLION fellow Vietnamese refugees would have perished in the South China Sea if we were to leave Vietnam today.
Amid tepid responses from rich western nations, the US included, I'm heartened that in response to the government of Iceland's stingy offer to take in just 50 Syrian refugees, more than 12,000 Icelanders have offered their homes to these refugees.
In the late 1980s a Vietnamese family walked into an Oakland social service agency where I worked seeking help. One of the younger daughters spoke English with an interesting accent. They had just relocated to Oakland... from Iceland.
That family turned out to be part of the 1st 34 Vietnamese refugees that Iceland took in in 1979. Some 300 Vietnamese eventually resettled in Iceland, making up nearly 1% of its population.
At the height of the SE Asian (Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese) refugee crisis, Iceland was one of the smallest countries that opened up their hearts & homes to people like me.

Photo: "Europe Migrant Crisis," the BBC
From the archive of the Office of United Nations High Commissioner 
for Refugees (UNHCR), which operated the refugee camps 
in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.
Just imagine... the many Vietnamese Americans and immigrants that you know or have met, the Vietnamese restaurants, the nail salons, doctors, mechanics, professors, gardeners, artists, engineers and nurses, and myself included, wouldn't be where we are today if you had turned your back on us 30 years ago.

I recently shared with NPR's Here & Now my refugee story.

Vietnamese ‘Boat Person’ Speaks Out About Refugee Crisis


  1. Hi -- I'm a producer with the NPR's Here and Now program. We would love to talk to you tomorrow morning (Wednesday, 11 a.m.; 8 a.m. PST) about your position on refugees and your own history. It would be a taped interview which would air several hours later. We could do this either in a California studio, or with an iPhone app for radio recording (very simple). Thanks for contacting me to let me know whether this is possible. I can be reached at 617-358-0236 (office); 617-792-3472 (cell). Email Thanks for letting me know as soon as possible. Karyn Miller-Medzon

  2. I never got involved with the numbers or the politics, but I worked 6 days per week teaching English to the new arrivals. We need fewer dictatorships that produce refugees and open borders and hearts for those who flee bloodshed and oppression.