Not Numbers but People

by Maggie Pawsey


Younus Mirza and Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee discussed how to recognize the humanity of migrants and refugees in their panel presentation on “Refugees: Not Numbers, but People.”

“We see people as either with us or against us,” said Mirza, Professor of Islamic Studies at Allegheny College, speaking on the current refugee crisis. “But it’s important to see them as friends.” This recognition of the refugee as a human person, as a friend, seems to be a crucial step toward the problem’s solution.

Schnyder von Wartensee, a research assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, spoke on her experience of visiting Libyan migrants passing through the island of Lampedusa on their way to Italy. “Libya is like hell,” she said, “one of the worst places to be right now in the world because of human trafficking, because of smuggling, because of violence.”

Migrants and refugees travelling to Italy are at such a disadvantage, as the majority do not know the language and have very little to support themselves on. Schnyder von Wartensee explains that there is, “a struggle to welcome the stranger, struggle to welcome the other, and then the Pope saying, welcome everybody, welcome the stranger.”

This will only be possible by grasping the full importance of human dignity, and by seeing the refugees not as threats or statistics, but as our brothers and sisters in need of help.