The weeks leading up to Christmas are often a blur of gift shopping, but some Londoners took the time to convey their heartfelt Christmas messages to Syrian refugees already in England, or those bound for the country.
Filmmakers from Shape History, a creative agency, approached locals in London to ask them what they wanted to say to Syrian refugees. Some wished them well, some apologized for the actions of world leaders that exacerbated the conflict. "There are a lot of people here that want them here and far away from everything like that," one woman said. Another even delivered her Christmas message in Arabic.
The project, conducted by creative agency Shape History, seemed like a simple gesture to the millions of Syrian people who have fled the violent conflict in their country. But it was much more than that. The video was, in fact, a social experiment that put these Londoners face-to-face with Bayan, a Syrian refugee, who was listening to their messages close by through a pair of headphones.
The interviewer invited Bayan over, and he thanked them for their messages of comfort and welcome. Bayan, the interviewer said, made his way to London after 48 harrowing hours in a cardboard box on the back of a truck traveling across Jordan.
According to Mashable, Bayan fled Syria in 2011 and spent six to 12 months in Jordan before making his way to the U.K.
"When he finally reached Germany, he was split off from a group of his friends and travelled onwards to France where the same also happened there," a spokesperson from Shape History told the website. "In his last few months in France he was caught up in the Calais 'jungle' before making contact with the Care4Calais team."
The raging Syrian civil war has taken a toll on its people. It sparked a massive wave of refugees that Europe is still struggling to deal with, and a dire humanitarian crisis. Recent events in eastern Aleppo has brought renewed attention to the violence and suffering in Syria, but seeing news reports on the anguish in Syria is much different than coming into contact with someone who has been through it.
"I feel quite emotional, really," one woman said when asked how meeting Bayan made her feel. "You see it on the news and that's emotional enough. But when you come face-to-face with somebody that's actually been through that hell... it's quite humbling. We're walking along here sipping our cups of tea and coffee and there's people that are struggling to survive — to live, let alone have a cup of coffee."
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