By Cameron M. Bray ’16
Dr. Tom Donlan gave a speech at lunch Oct. 2 in the Great Hall entitled “How would Ignatius respond to ISIS?”
On reflection, its premise alone was intriguing: Combining the two dissimilar subjects of the Islamic State and St. Ignatius of Loyola in the same speech would certainly be challenging.
Yet he managed to do it successfully, and by the end his presentation had greatly piqued my interest in the subject of Middle Eastern affairs.
Not only giving a good Ignatius recap, he also touched upon some noteworthy points concerning the current state of affairs within the Middle East.
First, he discussed how American imperialism in the region has soured its image there and fueled the flames of anti-American sentiment.
Second—and more importantly—he briefly discussed the current refugee crisis in Middle East, which has only worsened under the self-declared, brutal regime of ISIS.
And it certainly is a crisis, one which the United States—a self-declared bastion of democracy and human rights—should be focused on.
With the three-way battle still raging between the Islamic State, Syrian insurgents and President Bashar al-Assad, more than 3 million refugees have fled Syria since 2012, according to The New York Times.
To put that in perspective, the number of refugees fleeing from Syria is greater than the total population of Chicago, which was 2.719 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Iraq the crisis is as equally tragic and terrible.
More than 1.1 million Iraqi citizens, or 180,000 families, have been displaced, according to CNN which cited a UN report written June 18.
In fact, during the six-day period of Aug. 1-6, when ISIS captured the town of Sinjar and several others, 2,137 families, on average, were displaced daily.
According to a United Nations report, that amounts to as many as 33,000 families in total (though this number is not yet included in official data).
Currently, refugees are flooding into neighboring countries seemingly ad infinitum.
Andwhat truly makes this a crisis is this: Only about 12 percent of Syria’s displaced families are living in the large refugee camps that have been built.
Worse, the large majority of these families are living in substandard shelters in shantytowns and villages.
Fortunately, the United States has begun providing Iraqi refugees with humanitarian aid.
Besides targeting ISIS with airstrikes, the United States has already begun deploying a series of airdrops, which have already been put to good effect.
Although airstrikes, admittedly, also played in a major role, these airdrops helped greatly in breaking the siege of Mt. Sinjar, in which ISIS militants initially trapped thousands of Yazidis on the mountains.
According to The Washington Post, the United States successfully delivered 63 of its 72 bundles containing 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 prepackaged meals to the entrapped, starving and dehydrated Yazidis.
These supplies sustained them until the siege was broken and a majority of the Yazidis were able to finally escape the mountains.
Such a powerful story as this serves mainly to remind us of the dire situation faced by many refugees in the Middle East.
It also reminds us of the efficacy of humanitarian aid: Without it, the Yazidis would have faced what the United Nations described as “imminent” genocide.
Overall, as preached by Dr. Donlan during his presentation, St. Ignatius would have chosen the peaceful method to resolving the conflict rather than the violent one.
And if I were to venture a guess, the saint’s method would look a lot like the humanitarian measures undertaken by United States.