Tikno drew my attention to the suggestion from Bloggers Unite that bloggers from around the world might combine on 10 November to draw attention to the plight of refugees, as well as to the work of Refugees United in helping re-unite separated families.
My problem in thinking about this was simply to find something useful that I might say. Sometimes the problems seem so great, the solutions so distant, that it all becomes just too difficult.
Natural calamities can force people to flee. More often, it is man's inhumanity to man. Refugees are a reflection of the dark side of the human spirit that still dogs us and may ultimately destroy us.
Yet despite all the problems, I think that humanity has actually made progress at two levels.
At the first level, we are simply better at handling natural calamities. This may sound hard to believe, but I think that it's clearly true. If you look back into the past, famines and other natural disasters went un-checked, even un-noticed.
At a second level, we may not be able to remove the dark side of the human spirit, but we have been slowly introducing mechanisms to at least exercise a measure of control over it. The evolution of the international structures created in the chaos that followed the end of the Second World may have been slow and imperfect, but there has been progress.
I make the point about progress because it counters our human tendency to give up in the face of what seem to be continuing insuperable difficulties.
From a purely Australian perspective, I also think it helpful to remember just how important refugees have been to the development of this country. While most Australians don't think of it in these terms, nearly every Australian has a refugee somewhere in their lineage, or at least knows a present or past refugee.
A very large number of Australians of Irish ancestry have one or more ancestors who were forced to leave Ireland by the potato famine when many Irish simply starved to death. Then, at the end of the Second World War as part of the mass migration program, we admitted hundreds of thousands of refugees, displaced persons they were called, from the chaos of Europe.
These are big examples, but over more than two centuries there has in fact been group after group of refugees, decade after decade, each contributing to the evolving texture of Australian life.
In saying this, I am not saying that Australia can simply admit all refugees regardless. We cannot. I am saying that we should remember our own past in forming our views about refugees.
Looking back over this post, I suppose that there are two key messages in it.
The first is the importance of continuing hope that we can and will do better as a species, no matter how hard the problem may appear. The second is the importance of compassion, the need for us as human beings to care for each other.