The Syrian refugee crisis is a daunting one. An estimated 13.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. The number of Syrian refugees now stands at around 4.6 million, and 6.6 million more are displaced within Syria, half of whom are children. Those children are at risk of illness, malnourishment, abuse or exploitation. Millions of them have had to stop going to school.
Why are Syrians fleeing their country? Since the Syrian civil war started, 320,000 people have been killed, including almost 12,000 children, and about 1.5 million people have been wounded or permanently disabled. The infrastructure within Syria is collapsed, including healthcare and education. Safe drinking water is getting harder to come by as the average availability has decreased by half. In other words, the situation in Syria is an utter living hell.
One company wants to do something to help. Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics joined with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nonprofit organization that responds to humanitarian crises around the world, to send a clear message that Syrian refugees fleeing a war-torn country are welcome in the U.S. “This is the largest humanitarian crisis of our time,” Lush proclaims on its website.
The campaign runs from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28, with the goal of raising $350,000 from the sale of the company’s Hand of Friendship soap. All proceeds from the soap throughout the duration of the campaign will go into the Friendship Fund created by Lush, and the funds will be distributed to groups in North America that help settle Syrian refugees.
Lush decided to start the campaign because “we are, and always have been, a campaigning company,” Carleen Pickard, ethical campaigns specialist for Lush Cosmetics, told TriplePundit. Lush has a long history of campaigns, including fighting animal testing, banning dog-sled races and tours in British Columbia, Canada, and banning plastic bags.
“The current situation in Syria, and the journey for those forced to leave their homes seeking safety from the violence, is heartbreaking,” Pickard said. Lush wanted to “ensure, in a way that we could, that refugees arriving in North America are welcomed with love and friendship.” In addition, the company wanted to use its over 230 shops in North America “to inform our customers and give them a meaningful and impactful way to take action to show their support.”
Lush is doing several things as part of the campaign to get the message across that Syrian refugees are welcome in the U.S. One of those things is decorating its store-front windows with welcome signs in Arabic. Another is engaging customers to extend a welcome by signing welcome postcards to refugees who have just arrived and using the hashtag #refugeeswelcome on social media. The response has been “overwhelmingly positive” so far, Pickard said.
Lush’s campaign couldn’t come at a better time. Back in September, President Barack Obama told his administration to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. After his announcement, some lawmakers were less than thrilled. “Our enemy now is Islamic terrorism, and these people are coming from a country filled with Islamic terrorists,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). “We don’t want another Boston Marathon bombing situation.”
Then, in November, terrorists with ties to the Islamic State attacked Paris, and the voices against welcoming Syrian refugees into the U.S. grew louder. Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said: “Anyone with an ounce of common sense would say, 'No, we shouldn't be bringing in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.'”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another Republican presidential candidate who has since dropped out of the race, even introduced legislation to stop the U.S. from issuing visas to refugees from countries with high terrorist activities. Clearly, some Americans have hung out a “not welcome” sign for Syrian refugees. But not all. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote a letter with 14 other Democrats asking President Obama to take in an additional 65,000 refugees. Durbin praised Obama’s pledge to take in 10,000 refugees as “a step in the right direction.”
Pickard contrasted the attitudes in Canada concerning Syrian refugees with those in the U.S. “In Canada there has been an outpouring of public support for the arriving refugees since Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada would increase the number of refugee arrivals to 25, 000 by the end of this month,” she told 3p. “In the United States the context is a little different. The political conversation is more diverse with opinions split. And President Obama has faced opposition to his pledge to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States this year.”
But Lush thinks education about the situation in Syria will help Americans understand. As Pickard said, “We believe that once people see and understand the violence and fear Syrian refugees have experienced, they will take action to lighten the suffering of the Syrian people.”
Image credit: Flickr/Freedom House
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.