The Unifying Power Of Music

COLDPLAY HELPS OXFAM INSPIRE PEOPLE TO STAND AS ONE WITH REFUGEES
BY SHIRLEE ENGEL

Photo Credit : Coldplay/R42.

“As a band, we’re really proud to have had Oxfam on the road with us,” Martin said. “It’s given our incredible fans the chance to show their support for [Oxfam’s] campaigns.”

Ellen Lainez is living proof of what can happen when a refugee is given a chance. She fled to Canada in 2009 after being violently assaulted in El Salvador. Now back on her feet in Toronto, she dedicates her free time to supporting others escaping persecution back home.

That’s why the 39 year old jumped at the opportunity to represent Oxfam as one of 45 ambassadors on the Canadian leg of Coldplay’s Head Full of Dreams tour. The internationally-acclaimed rock band has been harnessing the power of their music to educate, engage and inspire fans around the world to unite in solidarity with refugees through the Stand As One campaign.

“I’ve felt both the pain of leaving my country and family and the happiness of being welcomed, protected and helped. Raising awareness and reminding all that we are one, that we need to be united by music and share that solidarity message is what inspires me,” Lainez said.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 65 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes, the result of natural disasters, extreme poverty and brutal conflict. Some 22.5 million are now refugees and another 10 million are stateless.

These men, women and children escaped the unthinkable in their homelands, often only to encounter closed doors. Many are separated from loved ones, finding temporary shelter in makeshift camps with limited access to food, clean water or toilets. They live under threat of disease, sexual assault and exploitation. Countless migrants fall victim to human trafficking in harrowing journeys across the sea that too often end in tragedy.

With so many people in such overwhelming need, is there any hope of ending this crisis?
“We don’t see refugees. We see people,” said Julie Delahanty, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada. “Ordinary people like you and me, who are resilient and determined to persevere no matter the odds. Standing in solidarity with refugees and internally displaced people is something we can all do to let them know that they’re not alone; that people in other places do care and can help them rebuild their lives.”

Canada is one of few countries welcoming refugees with open arms and Oxfam wants others to do the same. It’s calling on the Trudeau government to maintain its leadership role by accepting many more people in the coming years, and continuing to support humanitarian efforts. That includes dressing the specific needs of women refugees and internally displaced people.

“During our last 18 months on the road, we’ve been blown away by our fans’ support for Oxfam’s Stand as One campaign, with hundreds of thousands adding their name to the cause,” Coldplay said in a statement. “At the same time, Canadians have been leading the world in their acceptance of refugees, opening their doors to people forced to flee their homes.” The band has been among Oxfam’s most high profile and vocal supporters for 15 years, using their worldwide success to help the organization campaign on all five of Coldplay’s tours in more than 50 countries.

In 2013, Coldplay let Oxfam use the hit song In My Place to create a crowdsourced music video to raise awareness about land grabs. Seven thousand submissions and more than 350,000 views later, the World Bank acknowledged the problem and committed to do more to prevent land grabbing. It remains an ongoing issue.

This year, the focus is the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Oxfam’s Stand As One campaign calls on the world’s richest countries to uphold the fundamental human rights of people forced to flee their homes and provide a dignified future to those who can’t go back, including the right to work, education, and freedom from violence. It also urges those nations to provide more assistance to developing countries struggling to host the vast majority of refugees and displaced people.

Oxfam is working with its partners around the world to support these people as they move forward with their lives. That includes addressing immediate needs like clean water, hygiene, and food, but also ensuring the unique needs of women and girls in emergencies are considered.

Though natural disasters can’t be prevented, organizations like Oxfam help communities build up resilience. And when it comes to poverty and conflict, they’re working on the long-term solutions that prevent people from becoming refugees in the first place.

“Money and resettlement alone will not solve this crisis,” said Delahanty of Oxfam Canada. “We need to tackle the root causes of displacement: conflict, poverty and inequality. Gender inequality is especially pernicious with women and girls facing particular risks, but also contributing in important ways to their communities and to the resolution of the issues. Decades of experience has taught us that when women are able to fully participate in their communities – including preventing, managing and resolving conflict — we build more peaceful societies and meaningful change.”

Oxfam is a rights-based charity working in more than 90 countries to end global poverty.

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