The issue of asylum seekers has been bubbling for a while and is reaching boiling point in many parts of the world, with the recent pictures of a 3 year-old Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Turkey becoming a vivid reminder of what’s a stake for many people escaping extreme repression, persecution and war in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
We don’t know how we should respond, but we are afraid of what this issue means for us and our way of life.
And that’s a problem.
So we use words and phrases like, “invasion,” “illegal, “queue-jumpers” and “potential terrorists.”
In our fear, we keep them at a distance.
We put up walls and stop the boats.
We put them in indefinite detention.
We hold up placards and hold high-level government meetings.
We use inflammatory descriptions designed to invoke suspicion and hostility, such as migrants, Muslims, even criminals and forget that they are people.
Flesh and blood.
Mums and dads.
Kids who should be in schools and playing in playgrounds.
Doctors, plumbers, teachers, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs.
Just like you and me.
No better, but certainly no worse.
Just as we would, they are fleeing extreme danger.
Just as we would, they want their children to be safe.
Just as we would, they just want to utilise their skills to benefit their community.
Icelandic author, Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, recently put it this way:
“They are our future spouses, best friends, the next soulmate, a drummer for our children’s band, the next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finishes the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, a fireman and television host.”
I love this perspective as it reminds us that we can look at this as less of a global problem and more of a global opportunity.
An opportunity to give others a chance to live their best lives, in peace and freedom.
An opportunity to express love and compassion to those who genuinely need it.
An opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations that we can be proud of, not a black stain on our collective history that future leaders will be apologising for.
I’m not saying that the solution is a simple one or that I have all of the answers.
But I do know that fear doesn’t solve anything.
And enough children have drowned.
And that’s the real problem.
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