Across the globe this week, millions of people tuned in to watch the final episode of the epic HBO series, Game of Thrones. 19.3 million to be precise (according to CNN Business). And when you take into account all the delayed viewing streams, season 8 is attracting 44 million viewers per episode.
44 million. That’s a lot of people.
Would you believe that’s almost the same number of people who’ve been internally displaced around the world, forced to flee their homes because of war, violence or persecution? 40 million according to the UNHCR, and sadly, the figure rises to 68.5 million when you take into account all those who’ve fled their home countries or are seeking asylum.
It’s a topic the stars of Game of Thrones are pretty serious about. Sure, they’re all blood-thirsty on screen (looking at you Queen Cersei and Ramsay Bolton) but in real life, they’re full of empathy and compassion.
There was that time Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) and Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) added their voices to #RealmToTheRescue, an online campaign raising awareness about the plight of Syrian refugees (see video above).
And that time Kit Harrington (who’ll always be King of the North in our books) joined UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett in reading an emotional poem highlighting the harrowing choices refugees make when leaving their homes.
What about that time in 2016, around the same time the Starks were facing the Boltons in the Battle of the Bastards, when Lena Headey, Maisie Williams and Liam Cunningham (aka Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark and Ser Davos) travelled to Lesbos, Greece to meet some of the 57,000 refugees from Syria, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan and beyond? They used the opportunity to call on the leaders of the European Union to do more to help them.
“These smart, hardworking people want to go home. They want to return to their communities and to their neighbourhoods. They want their children to continue their education,” Lena Headey said. “They’re stuck. And they’re unbelievably sad. Understandably. We can do better for them. We must do better for them.”
At Cherso, in Northern Greece, then teenager Maisie Williams met with refugees only a few years younger than herself. “For me it is about the children…children with so much potential, so many hopes and dreams,” she says. “Where is the humanity that makes it acceptable for them to languish in refugee camps – in Europe?”
Lena Headey, who’s been named an official voice for the IRC, has continued her work with the organisation, travelling to Germany last year to meet refugees starting a new life there. She was reunited with Marwa, a mum of three that she met at a camp during her earlier trip to Greece and has vowed to never stop speaking up for her or others like her.
“There’s no ignoring it.” Lena explains in an interview with HBO. “My role is to be there, listen and try to understand how we move forward in our global society.”
Most recently, the actress used her social media platform to let us know there’s a mental health crisis unfolding amongst refugees in the Moria camp and to direct fans to a crowd-funding campaign to build a safe space for mothers and children nearby:
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