After his dominant victory against Kei Nishikori in the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Sunday, top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic was asked to comment on the many Syrian refugees who have migrated through his native Serbia to get to Western Europe.
Syrian refugees have received renewed attention in the United States and abroad since a number of violent attacks in Paris left over a hundred people dead and many more injured. Numerous people in the U.S., including Donald Trump, have used that tragedy to explain why they don't want the country to house refugees.
Rather than fall into that line of thinking, the world's No. 1 player called for empathy.
"At the end of the day we all have to be humans and feel for one another," the 28-year-old said.
During the press conference, Djokovic mentioned how his past work with Syrian refugees on behalf of UNICEF has influenced his thinking on the topic. In September, Djokovic visited a UNICEF-supported center in Belgrade, Serbia, which provided shelter for families from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who were trying to escape violence.
He talked about the power of "seeing a child, playing with the same child and then 30 seconds later mother comes, she takes him away from me and she says, 'We have to go. We have to leave now.'"
Many of these migrants, Djokovic added, proceed to walk for countless miles to an unknown destination.
According to UNICEF, children comprise a third of the refugee and migrant population. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates more than 4 million people have fled Syria alone.
As ESPN notes, Djokovic gave a heartfelt speech about the terrorist attacks on the city of Paris before Sunday's match.
"All my heart goes to the families of the lost ones. It was really devastating to see those images and footages," Djokovic said. "I just want everybody to make one more applause in remembrance to these people."
As Djokovic demonstrates, you can honor the victims of the Paris attacks while also defending the rights of the million of voiceless people who are trying to escape that same type of violence. You can express empathy for these vulnerable people without trying to associate them with a terrorist group.
As he says, "We all have to be humans."
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