The word crisis comes from the Greek “krisis“, meaning roughly ” a decision”.
In this sense, the “refugee crisis” is truly a crisis by definition: a historical moment that calls for informed political decisions.
At the same time the magnitude of the crisis forces also the man and woman on the street to form an opinion about it – an individual “decision”. Am I willing to welcome refugees into my neighbourhood? Should I volunteer to offer my help? Should I allow my tax money to be spent on basic care for these people?
When we started to plan this issue, our first instinct was that we were going to look at ways in which adult education initiatives educate the incoming refugees, to help them integrate. We do of course write about this, for example about Swedish study circles for refugees, or an innovative Italian integration policy. But looking at the issue now, many of the contributions conclude that the “native” populations – citizens living in receiving countries – have almost as much to learn as the incomers.
In this context the terms media literacy and media education spring up often in our articles. Citizens must read media critically and consult a variety of sources to form an informed, balanced understanding of the crisis. This is our responsibility, even. In many countries, the refugee crisis has greatly polarized the public opinion, with very vocal extremes. False rumours about, for example, refugees committing crimes are easy to fabricate and thus feed a xenophobic sentiment. Media reporting about the crisis may serve internal political aims. Tabloid media secure their revenue by tapping directly into people´s emotions with screaming headlines in the direction of as “Asylum seekers compain of local food”! (Iltalehti, 30.9.2015)
With all this noise, it is difficult to form an informed opinion, an individual “decision”, to return to the origin of the word crisis. Adult education must help in this by providing media education, and opportunities for open debate. It is no accident that also Elm focuses on this: media education is one of the strategic priorities of the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation, the main publisher of Elm.
The refugee crisis is complex. It would be as naive to think that refugees as a whole pose a threat to Europe as it would be to think that all refugees entering Europe are sincere and fleeing mortal danger. But debate about the crisis must remain sober, civilized and humane.