As I sat in Vienna's St. Stephan's cathedral, I felt the rich, hollow expanse weigh in on me. My eyes wander over the extravagance– ornate stained glass, detailed stone figures, chandeliers dripping with crystal. Every visible surface is adorned in some excessive fashion. The ostentatious space seemed ironically juxtaposed with the crisis happening just on the other side of the stained glass windows. While tourists traveled to take pictures with the pulpit in front of me, victims fleeing violence were being stopped at those same borders.
In Vienna, I was four weeks into a three-month study aboard program during which I visited 16 countries. Across the vast spectrum of places I visited, one unifying factor bound the countries together–the 911,000 refugees in Europe seeking protection from war and persecution. Their presence is accompanied by quickly intensifying anti-refugee movements calling for the closure of borders against asylum-seekers.
As I sat in the Cathedral, I wondered how the hollowness was so filled with religion, yet void of the bodies stranded at borders, in detention centers and in camps, waiting to find refuge in this modern exodus. The following series of photos and statistics explores this exclusionary irony.