It’s long been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Perhaps this is why many of us are so reluctant to make eye contact with strangers — we don’t want to give away too much.
But maybe we should give it a shot more often, the results might change our lives.
Twenty years ago, psychologist Arthur Aron discovered that when people stare into each others eyes for just four minutes without looking away, it has the potential to bring them much closer, and could even make them fall in love.
In a video produced by Amnesty International Poland and the Polish ad agency DDB&Tribal, recently arrived refugees from Syria and Somalia looked deep into the eyes of people from Belgium, Italy, Germany, Poland and the UK. What followed was incredible, and will definitely bring you to tears.
This experiment was not staged and the people were complete strangers, but after just a few moments of uninterrupted eye contact they acted as if they were old friends.
The video, which is called “Look Beyond Borders,” was filmed in a warehouse in Berlin, a city with its own history of war, strife, suffering and division. It also happens to be the capital of the European country that’s most welcoming to refugees.
At a time when refugees are widely viewed with suspicion and treated with disdain, it’s vital to remind people of their common humanity and breed connections across the arbitrary lines we’ve drawn across the world. This was exactly what the producers of this video hoped to accomplish.
As Draginja Nadadin, Director of Amnesty International Poland, put it,
We decided to conduct a simple experiment during which refugees and Europeans sat across from each other and looked each other in the eyes. We recorded these very human encounters and the short film speaks for itself. People from different continents who have literally never set eyes on each other before come away feeling an amazing connection.
It takes a heart of stone to watch this video without shedding a tear. Today, when the world appears rife with division and conflict, it is always worthwhile to look at everything from another person’s perspective. Too often, what gets lost in the numbers and headlines is the suffering of actual people, who, like us, have families, friends, their own stories, dreams and goals. What if we stopped for just a moment and looked at who they really are?
Borders exist between countries, not people. And it is imperative that our governments start putting people before borders and their own short-term political gain.
We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis of our era, with over 20 million refugees worldwide. This will not get solved if we sit back and allow fear to dictate our actions or act is if it’s not our problem.
No one chooses to be a refugee, it’s simply a matter of survival. Refugees are fleeing war, poverty and persecution. If they could stay in their own countries, their homes, they would, but it’s just not an option.
Sometimes we all need to take a step back and wonder how we would feel if placed in the same dire situation.
Watch thefull video, “Look Beyond Borders,” above.