Once upon a time a sacrifice was a religious and spiritual offering. You can hear it in the etymology. Sacred, sacrifice. Be it incense, food, or the life of a goat, sacrifices were an integral part of practicing many ancient religions. When Christianity became the dominant religion the priests stopped asking for the lives of animals but instead asked many sacrifices of their followers. Priests and nuns sacrificed their entire lives and bodies to their God. Slowly, as religion has become less a part of the daily Western lifestyle, the word sacrifice has come to mean very little.
Every day I hear people using the word, and I find myself wondering if they have any idea what it means. “What a sacrifice I made,” I hear. Giving up gluten because of fad diet is not a sacrifice, it is a choice. Missing out on parties or events because you had a child is not a sacrifice, it is a choice. Recording one television show and missing another is not a sacrifice, it is a choice.
Police officers, fire fighters, foreign aid workers, soldiers, and others like them, make sacrifices every day. They put their lives on the line in order to make the rest of us safe. Sacrifice is giving up something of value for the sake of something else. Lucky enough to have been born in a middle-class family, in one of the most peaceful countries of the world, my life has been easy.
I have never had to sacrifice anything for my well-being. Very few of the people I know have ever done so. I believe that this makes it exponentially harder for us to understand the plight of people such as the Syrian refugees. When Canada answered the call and opened its borders to the needy I heard a lot of people saying that they didn’t want to sacrifice their safety to save a few lives. How unbelievable. These are people who lost their homes, their friends and families, their possessions and livelihoods. They deserve a safe haven.
Of course it is possible that an extremist or two slips through amidst the thousands of well-deserving and peaceful people. I personally am more afraid that we are creating the opportunity for more fundamentalists to be recruited. By denying young men of a certain age to enter any safe borders we are leaving behind recruits. Drumming into their heads that they are a force to be feared, leaving them to be snatched up by ISIS.
Just this past week an entire town in Northern Canada was wiped off the map by a forest fire. I had both family and friends pack up what little they could and escape with the flames on their very heels. People had to sacrifice their homes, their belongings and in some cases their pets in order to stay alive. It was a tense couple of days, waiting to hear that everyone was evacuated safely. Eventually due to the unrelenting wind and heat the firefighters had to give up on Fort McMurray and let it succumb to the fires.
Oil and gas workers who live in the Northern camps took in many of those who were fleeing. Ranchers and farmers welcomed families and their animals. The outpouring of aid and assistance has been heart-warming. Except for those few angry individuals who feel the need to lash out at the Canadian government. I have seen several items on my Facebook news feed, blaming the refugees that were welcomed earlier this year on the lack of resources available. My first question is, what lack of resources? My second question is, why are the refugees even a part of the conversation about a forest fire? It hurts my soul to see such anger and violence aimed at those who had absolutely nothing to do with the tragedy.
It is an undeniably difficult situation. One made worse by uncertainly and confusion on both sides. I am not the person to tell you that religion is the right path, or that you need to sacrifice yourself for anything you don’t want to. I am not the person to say whether your sacrifice was legitimate or not. That is for each person to decide themselves. I just wish everyone would think twice about both their own situation, and the plight of others, before refusing to make any concessions or a sacrifice of their own.