Richard Flanagan on Syria’s great exodus

Syrian refugees live in the shell of a bombed-out factory in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon

The CEO of World Vision Australia, the Rev Tim Costello, recently invited Richard Flanagan and Ben Quilty to visit Lebanon, Greece, and Serbia, and so to see (and smell, and taste, and hear … and feel) first hand something of the Syrian refugee crisis. It was a smart move.

Richard wrote up something of that experience for the Guardian. (Apparently, a fuller account is coming. I very much look forward to reading it.) And then earlier this week, he was interviewed by Richard Fidler. The interview is deeply moving, and witnesses to the paradoxes of the human condition – from the deep grace of human hospitality and of hope’s desperate determinations, to our ugliest forms of opportunism, both economic (the story of the life death-jackets was outrageous) and political – the disgrace of using refugees (and other already-vulnerable persons, for that matter) as political bargaining chips rather than leaning unreservedly into fuller implications of the fact that, in Flanagan’s words, ‘that terrible river of the wretched and the damned flowing through Europe is my family. And there is no time in the future in which they might be helped. The only time we have is now’.

You can listen to the interview here.

[Image: Lynsey Addario/Guardian]


  1. Thank you for posting this Jason. John and I have volunteered as Red Cross Support for Syrian refugees coming to the south of Aotearoa. Our current training is helping us to place ourselves in their shoes in order to understand as best we can how it is/has been for them. Still there are naysayers in our community…’they’ll take our jobs, our state housing…’ and this article gives me even more to counteract/resist this nimby attitude.
    We are so looking forward to preparing a home for them and finally to meeting ‘our’ family in a few weeks’ time. We hope and pray they will find safety at last, and flourish here.


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