Why We All Need to Stand As One with Refugees

Emily Kirby (left) and other Oxfam Ambassadors on tour with Coldplay in Toronto.
Emily Kirby (left) and other Oxfam Ambassadors on tour with Coldplay in Toronto.

 Emily Kirby recounts her experience as an Oxfam Ambassador for the Stand As One campaign – a global movement of Coldplay fans standing in solidarity with refugees and displaced people.


I’ll never forget the look in the eyes of those three sisters I met at a recent Coldplay concert.

Their eyes glistened as I talked about the global displacement crisis – the plight of 65 million people who have fled violence, persecution and insecurity around the world. 

Turns out, they knew exactly what that feels like. They had experienced it themselves.

The sisters had recently left behind friends and family in Venezuela in search of safety, and they found it in Canada.  They opened up to me about the struggles they faced as their country fell into political turmoil and the economy collapsed. How isolating and overwhelming it all felt. And how it felt to be welcomed into another country by complete strangers.  

In that moment, I realized why the work I was doing at the Coldplay concert on behalf of Oxfam Canada was so important. As a volunteer ambassador for the charity on the band’s Head Full of Dreams tour, my job was to raise awareness about the Stand As One campaign – a global movement of fans standing in solidarity with refugees and displaced people. Though we are talking about the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, many governments are closing their doors to these women, children and men who have nowhere else to go. Thousands have died along the way trying to reach safety.

Why don’t we hear about this more in our busy lives?

It breaks my heart.

People have a tendency to feel powerless in the face of these global calamities. What difference will signing a petition or sharing something on social media really make? It all seems so empty.

But the reality is, making noise, raising awareness, building a global community of allies, and establishing a sense of solidarity all serve an important purpose. Governments listen when people speak up.

When I heard about Oxfam’s Stand As One campaign, I was immediately drawn to it. I had the incredible childhood of growing up in Indonesia, where my parents worked in education and development with displaced people who experienced discrimination. The combination of my parents’ compassion for their stories, and my personal experience with these people made the refugee crisis something very close to my heart.

By standing as one, we are sending a message to world leaders that we won’t stand by while people suffer. Whether these people are facing war, famine, recession, segregation, or political unrest, there is a need for people to come together to ensure that they know they are supported.

By starting these conversations at concerts, around the dinner table, and at social gatherings, we are empowering people in our communities to be informed, engaged, and involved in bringing about change.

The sisters were pleased to hear about Oxfam’s efforts to get people around the world learn more about the refugee crisis and pressure their governments to help more people forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own. They talked about how in the midst of fear and hardship, movements grounded in solidarity gave them hope and courage. Knowing they had the support of complete strangers made a big difference in their lives. Now these young women had the opportunity to be a part of that same community supporting others.

When I was selected to be an Oxfam ambassador, I had no idea that my little elevator pitch about Stand As One would spark deep discussions and bring out personal stories. I was really impressed by how many people were willing and eager to engage in a conversation about injustice. Some people I spoke to didn’t even know there was a refugee crisis. I found that astounding.

By starting these conversations at concerts, around the dinner table, and at social gatherings, we are empowering people in our communities to be informed, engaged, and involved in bringing about change.

The more we are willing to take the time out of our privileged lives to talk about these tough topics, the more momentum the movement gains. By simply sharing the hashtag or getting your name in a human chain, you are contributing to bringing about change in the lives of the people around you, and others around the world you may never meet.

Emily Kirby (left) and other Oxfam Ambassadors at the Coldplay concert in TorontoAs part of the global community, we have the responsibility to practice kindness and take action when injustice and hardship arise, wherever that may be. The concept of solidarity as a tool to fight injustice and bring about change is something that really resonates with me.

One of the loveliest moments from Coldplay’s show was when they dedicated the song Everglow to people in need around the world. Chris Martin took a moment to encourage fans to send love and prayers to people in Syria, Yemen, Charlottesville, your brother, sister, anyone who needs it.

If you’re planning on seeing Coldplay’s concert, you’ll understand how powerful this moment is: being surrounded by people all coming together in solidarity and selflessness. I think that is the very essence of what Oxfam’s Stand As One is all about.

Click here to learn more about Oxfam's #StandAsOne tour with Coldplay.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Kirby, Oxfam Ambassador on tour with Coldplay.

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