Who is the author?
Casey Daggett graduated in 2015 with a degree in Politics. She is
currently in her second year at University of Oregon Law where she is
Student Bar Association Vice President, an Associate Editor for the
Oregon Review of International Law and President of the Oregon chapter
of Global Women’s Narrative Project.
The Oxford Consortium for Human Right’s summer session began in Geneva with the theme of the Global Ethics of Human Migration. There, students from a variety of schools, including USC, University of Utah and University of Houston had the opportunity to network and learn alongside professionals in public policy, international law and human rights theory. We hosted speakers from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Organization for Migration, UNHCR, and the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. We spent the week predominantly in the Graduate Institute listening to lectures but also had the opportunity to tour the UN, only a few blocks away and spent each evening exploring the city. Our time in Geneva finished off with each school connecting the session’s theme to a local issue; I presented on the complexities of the unhoused population and the public policy considerations surrounding it within Oregon.
We then traveled to Thessaloniki in Northern Greece where lectures from NGOs and refugee advocacy groups were intermingled with on the ground work. While there, we traveled to several different towns to visit and help local organizations working alongside the refugee population, including a community cultural center and an NGO helping refugees transition into apartments and long term residency in Greece. This offered us the opportunity to compare, contrast and integrate all the policy and law considerations we learned in Geneva with on the ground work in Greece, the country most directly affected by the surge of refugees and migrants within the past few years.
As a person of faith, this trip was profoundly impactful but also shifted the way I think about human rights and the act of “service” for others. One of the refugees I was able to speak with said they felt demeaned when people said they were “serving” them, that it implied an imbalance of power or inequality between us. I had never considered this, certainly with the frequency with which the term “service” is often used within the Christian community, but I quickly came to realize that I would rather replace “service” with “empower”. Our goal as people of faith should not be to simply help people, to serve them in the worst moments of their lives, but instead to consider the long term needs and hopes of those for whom we care. We should instead seek to empower them, to open up opportunities and resources to transfer the vulnerable from places of struggle to independence and pride. The more we can do to ensure we, quite frankly, aren’t needed, the better.
We should also strive to recognize, but enable the dignity, of refugees and migrants as our fellows and peers. Far too much of our national conversation regarding refugees and immigration has been clouded in fear and ignorance. Refugees and migrants are not asking for anything particularly troublesome or burdensome, simply the opportunity to have a home and, so often, a nation they can proudly claim as their own as they flee the violence and war that has made their own impossible to live within. Is this too much to ask for? Is this a dream so truly unattainable that we so quickly turn our backs?
More than anything, however, I was struck by the power and resilience of the human spirit. Even amidst tremendous horror and overwhelming grief, we possess the capacity to create beauty and share joy. Though I certainly saw no shortage of chemical burns peeking from underneath the sleeves of children and failed to hold back tears as I listened to tale after tale of survival at tremendous cost, the most impactful thing I witnessed was laughter. Despite so much sorrow, there was laughter and pride and determination. In that lies our humanity, our inherent dignity.
It is that we should seek to empower as followers of Christ, to remember and recognize that we are all truly, wonderfully made in His image.