[They] have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”  - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr 


If there is inequality that is not directed at us, does it affect us? 

If there is pain and suffering that we don’t personally have to encounter, does this affect us? 

If people are forced to flee their homes but we are safe in ours, does that affect us? 

You would be forgiven for answering no to the above questions... it seems like the logical answer after all, but you would be wrong. We are all affected by the inequalities and suffering in our world, even when they are not pointed towards us.  


First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— 
     Because I was not a socialist. 

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— 
     Because I was not a trade unionist. 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
     Because I was not a Jew. 

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. 

- Martin Niemöller 


It is so easy, as we are reminded by Martin Niemöller’s poem, to do nothing in the face of injustice because we don’t perceive any personal risk. The fact is, however, that we risk an awful lot by doing nothing. You see, inequality, intolerance and bigotry are just practices - habits that take root in society if they are allowed to. They are not tied to any one idea or narrative; they might be used against asylum seekers today, but tomorrow they could be used against you. If you shrug your shoulders, decide that you should not act because you are not affected and enable these practices to continue, you are helping to create a society fluent in inequity, bigotry and hatred – a society where no one is safe.  


Wars and troubles that seemed so distant come rippling across our own borders.” - Rick Hanson 


Living in an equal society offers benefits you may have never imagined! According to The Equality Trust, societies which are more equal have more stable economies, more social mobility, higher educational achievements and decreased crime compared to less equal societies. Amazingly, the evidence even suggests that people live longer in more equal societies and suffer from reduced rates of mental illness, obesity and infant mortality. Equality has its part to play in relationships and happiness too... an equal society demonstrates mutual respect, breeds trust and results in better social engagement. 

By standing up against inequalities and intolerance and walking alongside those who are victim to it, you are creating a better society for everyone, including you.  

This Refugee Week, we are called to recognise that we cannot walk alone and to choose to walk alongside others. Here are just a few way of doing this:

1. Ask yourself if you could be a better ally  

Have you ever heard someone a racist remark and done nothing? Have you ever said something that wasn’t appropriate and never revisited it? We have all made mistakes and failed to be a good ally on occasion, but we are not defined by our mistakes. We can still be powerful allies for those who face inequality. Here’s a few ideas of how you could walk alongside someone as an ally: 

  • Own it and apologise when you get it wrong 
  • Acknowledge the advantages that you have  
  • Donate to charities fighting the cause 
  • Educate yourself on the experiences of others 
  • Use your platforms (for instance, on social media) as an opportunity to educate others 
  • Practice active listening  
  • Be open to all people and their experiences   

2. Recognise when others are suffering 

Psychologist Rick Hanson offers the idea that simply seeing the suffering in others is a powerful action. You have the ability to bear witness to the experiences and emotions of another person, which not only makes them feel valued and heard, but also means that their suffering doesn’t go unnoticed. He notes that, in a practical sense, ensuring that experiences don’t go unnoticed helps to ensure that positive change ensues. What’s more, recognising the suffering of other people helps you to learn how you impact on the lives of others, giving you the tools to be a better force in the world and inviting the same empathy should you need it in future.  

3. Amplify the voices of those with lived experience 

While we now realise that we are all affected by the plight of others, we also realise that we are not necessarily the ones with the best understanding or the most insightful voices. We need to defer to others where we know that others know better than us. The best way of doing this is to amplify the voices of the people who have lived through the experience. By simply sharing their story on social media or telling friends about it over coffee, we are making their voice louder in the mission to make sure everyone hears it.