It’s World Refugee Day and I want to share with you something you probably haven’t heard about on the news, or seen front-page headlines about. There is a student-led uprising in Nicaragua demanding first and foremost the resignation of the president and his wife, the vice-president (House of Cards, anyone?), followed by democratic elections for a fresh start. The people are demanding their country back.
If this were happening in the Middle East, as it did during the Arab Spring, there would be more coverage. I guess since it’s happening in a humble, non-oil-rich country, the poorest in Central America and second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, no one pays as much attention. I know about it because Nicaragua is my homeland and my extended family is experiencing this firsthand.
The “land of lakes and volcanoes” has a fraught revolutionary history and has long been ruled by corrupt strongmen. Whether a family dynasty, a communist regime, or an “elected” president, the rulers of Nicaragua have all had one thing in common – they have murdered, tortured, silenced, and robbed the people blind. And the people have had enough.
The brave university students leading this uprising and all those who follow their example have united under the mantle of a greater cause and are willing to lay down their lives for it. They are desperate, fearless, mad as hell, and have nothing left to lose — a potent combination that has toppled empires. The irony in all of this is the president himself was a leader in the Sandinista revolution that demanded the ouster of an oppressive autocrat. My, how the tables have turned.
Why should what is happening in Nicaragua matter? For one, look at Syria — a years-long civil war and genocide. Look at Venezuela — descended into chaos, collapse imminent. Both humanitarian crises due to brutal madmen hell bent on clinging to power no matter the human cost. Nicaragua could become another.
Secondly, as we argue over what should be done about immigrants and refugees poring over borders, have we considered why they are still coming in droves? They are still coming because if they stay in their countries they face oppression, corruption and violence; they have no jobs, no money, no hope. They can’t feed their families. Wouldn’t you risk everything to escape that?
Maybe if we worked more toward stabilizing and aiding these countries in diplomatic and humanitarian ways, their people wouldn’t have choose between fleeing or dying. I don’t pretend to understand how to solve these complex global issues, but I do understand mercy and compassion.
I am sad because this is happening in my country and all over the world. I am angry because the bullies still sit in their palaces surrounded by their armies, and the people continue to suffer.
So today – on World Refugee Day — please, pay attention. It matters because instability anywhere affects everywhere. If it doesn’t reach your heart first, it will eventually reach our doorstep, and then we will have to pay attention.
Please consider donating to the American Nicaraguan Foundation or another trusted Refugee NGO.
“Do you hear the people sing?/Singing the songs of angry men/It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.” –Les Miserables