On May 11th, we explore a new approach to the refugee ‘crisis’: that of empathy and compassion. Instead of only addressing the political or financial problems involved, we approach the refugee ‘crisis’ by trying to better understand and relate to the people involved, specifically refugees. The event will consist of a light introductory conversation, a discussion involving a walk in a refugee’s shoes and an introduction to compassion, including a compassion meditation. Perhaps this event could be the start of approaching the refugee ‘crisis’ in a more humane way, changing the way the issue is discussed in current day-to-day politics.
Sympathy vs empathy
How often have we seen bad news on our television, on the internet, or on our phones and quickly turned off our device due to a strong momentary feeling of sadness? The thing about sympathy is that it can be sincere; we are capable of sympathetically looking at the plight of refugees, but we are always easily removed from it. Sympathy creates distance and, while seeing that there are people in need of help, it allows for something such as the refugee ‘crisis’ to become someone else’s issue. Empathy, on the other hand, is more direct and involved and requires us to feel what another person is feeling by placing ourselves in their shoes.
Looking at political issues such as the refugee crisis through empathy and compassion can aid us in gaining different perspectives on these issues, perhaps to the point where it will even allow us to come up with more productive and creative solutions. During the event, we will explore the potential of the themes of empathy and compassion in relation to the refugee crisis.
Besides a brief introduction to the themes, the event will be broken into the following two parts. During the first part, we will be to gain some insight into what it would be like to be a refugee, by adopting the identity of a refugee. During a group discussion, we will address challenges for refugees and attempt to address issues from refugees’ perspectives. This part of the event approaches the refugee crisis through empathy; through placing oneself in another’s shoes.
The second part of the event consists of a discussion of compassion and a compassion meditation. Although meditation might be new and odd or intimidating to some, we are excited to explore this approach to compassion as a way to become more compassionate to ourselves and others, also in light of the refugee ‘crisis’.
No prior knowledge about any of the themes is required. We will approach the issues in a fun and informal way and welcome anyone who is interested!