Politics

6-Year-Old Boy Writes Letter to Obama About Syrian Refugee

A viral Facebook video of a 6-year-old boy reading a letter to President Barack Obama has injected some humanity into the hot button topic of Syrian refugees.

Alex, a 6-year-old from New York, wrote the letter to Obama after he saw the widely circulated picture of Omran Daqneesh, the shell-shocked 5-year-old Syrian boy filmed sitting in an ambulance after an air strike destroyed his home.

Omran Daqneesh

At a recent United Nations summit on the refugee crisis, Obama read the letter, in which Alex offers to open his home and family up to Daqneesh. The White House then produced and released a video of Alex reading his letter, which offers a significantly different perspective on Syrian refugees just days after Donald Trump Jr. compared them to poisoned candy

In the Facebook post, Obama wrote:

"Those are the words of a six-year-old boy -- a young child who has not learned to be cynical or suspicious or fearful of other people because of where they come from, how they look, or how they pray.

"We should all be more like Alex. Imagine what the world would look like if we were. Imagine the suffering we could ease and the lives we could save."

The Syrian conflict began in 2011, when President Bashar Al-Assad harshly cracked down on protesters who took to the streets to protest civil rights abuses. From there, an increasingly sectarian conflict emerged, with the governments of Syria, Russia and the United States all dropping bombs on various rebel groups fighting on the ground, killing and displacing thousands of civilians in the process.

In August, the U.S. reached its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees after a slow start, with most of the refugees getting resettled in the last three months before the target deadline of September 30, the end of the fiscal year, the New York Times reports.

To put that into context, here are the numbers on countries who have accepted Syrian refugees for resettlement, according to a February 2016 report from Amnesty International:

- "More than 4.5 million refugees from Syria are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt."

- In 2015, only 30 countries worldwide offered refugees places (meaning cities or towns) to resettle - out of a total of 196.

- "At least 450,000 people in the five main host countries - or 10% - are in need of resettlement according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR."

- "Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees. Other high income countries including Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have also offered zero resettlement places."

- "Germany has pledged 39,987 places for Syrian refugees through its humanitarian admission programme and individual sponsorship; about 54% of the EU total."

- "Excluding Germany and Sweden, the remaining 26 EU countries have pledged around 30,903 resettlement places, or around 0.7% of the Syrian refugee population in the main host countries."

That same month, The Times offered some context for the urgency behind resettling Syrian refugees: "The report from the Syrian Center for Policy Research said that at least 470,000 Syrians had died as a result of the war, almost twice the 250,000 counted a year and a half ago by the United Nations until it stopped counting because of a lack of confidence in the data."

Watch the full video of Alex below.

Alex is just six years old. He lives in Scarsdale, New York. Last month, like people around the world, he was moved by the heartbreaking images of Omran Daqneesh, a five-year-old boy in Aleppo, Syria, sitting in an ambulance, in shock as he tried to wipe the blood from his hands. So Alex sat down and wrote me a letter. This week at a United Nations summit on refugees, I shared Alex's moving words with the world. Alex told me that he wanted Omran to come live with him and his family. He wanted to share his bike, and teach him how to ride. He said his little sister would collect butterflies for him. "We can all play together," he wrote. "We will give him a family and he will be our brother." Those are the words of a six-year-old boy -- a young child who has not learned to be cynical or suspicious or fearful of other people because of where they come from, how they look, or how they pray. We should all be more like Alex. Imagine what the world would look like if we were. Imagine the suffering we could ease and the lives we could save. Listen to Alex, read his letter, and I think you'll understand why I shared it with the world. wh.gov/refugees

Posted by President Obama on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

[h/t NPR]