Barbara Hendricks calls for collective response to refugee crisis
PARIS, France - UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks has given a speech at the European Parliament on the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, calling on members to remember their founding values and ‘do their duty’ in responding to the global refugee challenge.
With global conflicts causing unprecedented humanitarian crises and more than 65 million people displaced, the US born classical singer took the opportunity to reflect on her own experiences over the last 30 years and reiterate the urgent need for a “collective response” to the current challenges in Europe.
“I have met too many heartbroken mothers, some who had to bury their children,” Hendricks told delegates, to a standing ovation. “In Greece last year, a mother could not hold back her tears when she spoke about their perilous journey and the life they had been forced to leave behind. Many Syrian children have already missed five years of school because of this tragedy.”
Hendricks, who is UNHCR’s longest serving ambassador, warned against allowing “merchants of fear, hatred and exclusion” to speak the loudest and define national identities.
However, she also expressed her confidence in the collective strength of the European Union to face these challenges head on, nearly 25 years after choosing to participate in what she termed “this difficult, complex and yet wonderful adventure.”
“It was founded on the values of human dignity, democracy, solidarity, freedom and equality,” she said of the EU. “We must be fearless, daring to look at the one we call the other and say my sister, my brother, my child.”
“I cannot look into the face of a suffering refugee child without seeing the face of my own children and grandchildren. As UNHCR Ambassador, I ask you to show the same solidarity that you would want for your family if you were forced to flee.”