Sunday, 31 January 2016

Welcoming night

Recently an acquaintance of mine back in the USA posted some of the past election bumper stickers for a certain political official -- apparently an official who wanted to grant asylum to some refugees --  with the caption, "Anyone with one of THESE on their car gets a Syrian refugee to take care of!"

I don't get into electoral politics much on this blog, and I'm not naming or defending the official in question. Still, I felt I ought to respond. I wrote back:

Actually, I'm already volunteering with Syrian refugees -- I've been asking everyone in our church to donate their old clothes and toys, and the refugees are quite grateful for them -- they've been homeless and on the run from ISIS for two years, so they've reached rural Ireland with nothing but the clothes on their back.

The refugees I've met have been fantastic, and their kids are adorable. I brought up the possibility of having some of them stay at our house, but the Irish government is wisely putting them up in a motel that went belly-up during the crash.

So, way ahead of you.
Several of us from the area volunteered to spend time making the acquaintance of the refugees, and help them get used to their new country and culture; it's not much, but it's a start. This week, in the village the refugees are staying in, the local school-children put on a show for them -- Irish dancing and singing, and the refugees demonstrated their own music and moves. Everyone had a chance to mingle, kids played together, and we had a great time.

I won't say any more about it for now, as we agreed to give the refugees privacy; also for that reason, I'm not showing any photos. I don't show photos of people's faces very often on this blog anyway, wary of putting people online without their permission. I will, though, enclose a photo of the kids doing Irish dancing for the crowd, partly because their faces are blurred.

This blog doesn't usually deal with issues like this, but I expect to see more such refugee situations in the coming decades, and we'd better get used to it now. So far this is one of the greatest human catastrophes since World War II -- six million people have been forced to flee for their lives.  Most countries here have agreed to take in some refugees, but more are coming to our shores every day, and many mornings bring new reports of the bodies of drowned children washed up in the Mediterranean.

These are people who found a tiny and overcrowded raft, floating on the open ocean, safer than their homes. See what you can do where you live -- you probably can't do much, but you might be able to do a little.


Anubis Bard said...

Very inspiring. I wish more of that was happening here. If nothing else, it might help cure more Americans of their xenophobia. The reaction to the exodus of refugees has been disheartening here. We have large corners of our mediascape and one of our two political parties devoted to stoking fear and ignorance and bringing out the most uncharitable aspects of our populace. I firmly believe that the majority of Americans would be welcoming, but hysteria seems to set policy these days.

SarahR said...

Well said. I similarly stopped a conversation in its tracks by responding to the rhetorical question 'would you have a Muslim refugee in your house?' by saying 'yes'.

Here in Australia refugees have been exploited for political gain for the last fifteen years and it is to our great discredit. There's nothing scary about people who come with nothing, and the best way to avoid future radicalisation is to treat people in need with kindness. It really isn't hard, and the rewards are wonderful. Most refugees would probably prefer to go home if it was safe to do so, but if it isn't, they will be our future neighbours and fellow citizens - starting as we mean to go on is going to give us all the best community.

Brian Kaller said...


Thank you. As an American originally myself -- and from a Republican, red-state, Christian conservative background -- I've heard much of the media you talk abut. Let me ask, though: how much of their messages are reflected in the attitudes of people on the ground? I've usually found that people are often quite decent, even when surrounded by mass media that urge them to be otherwise.


Thanks. How many refugees have come to Australia? I'm wondering if people are afraid of something they've never encountered, or contempt of the familiar.

Anubis Bard said...

I wish I could claim that anti-Muslim attitudes were a figment of media exaggeration, but I think it's become pretty widespread. On the one hand, I agree that Americans would be welcoming when it came down to families in their communities. On the other hand, they're not going to get that chance or that enlightening lesson -- we're not going to have those families because politics has choked off their routes here. Which, not coincidentally, is what the terrorists want.

Brian Kaller said...


It's a shame; tallying up the number of Americans who have died from Islamic terrorist attacks in the last 20 years, I'm pretty sure the number would be the victims of 9-11 and few others, putting it at one ten-millionth the risk of death by obesity.