14 July 2009

Ever Met a Refugee? Pt 1 of 3

They come in all shapes and sizes, with colours, accents and stories. To sit and listen to the stories, each one as different as the particular individual telling it, will both sadden and inspire your heart.

Each will be a story of choices, though the person you’re listening to will not have made the major choices. Those choices were made for them.

The choice to have a war where normal people were just trying to live life.
The choice to be of the wrong tribe or ethnic group or religious persuasion/flavour.
The choices are often made by the powerful, or by those who want to be. Sometimes the only choices a refugee had was to get on a bus or not, or which border to try to reach safely with as many family members as could make it.

Whether Karen’ Burmese, Kurdu from Iran or Congolese, safety is often far from home and requires relinquishment of everything familiar and comfortable.

How would it be for you to awake suddenly in the early hours of the morning with a menacing and unavoidable risk drawing near? You are powerless to stop it – the first of many times you are acutely aware of your powerlessness. You seek options, but they become fewer and fewer and none of them are desirable. Finally, it is flee or die!

What do you take? Starting out you might have essential plus a few comforts; memorabilia or an extra tool. But when you have to choose between carrying your exhausted mother or child and clinging to your favourite guitar, you choose your loved one. Hopefully, between your few family members you can manage a pot, a knife, a bottle for water and a waterproof packet for your identifying documents!

You walk. You’d like to get transport for the weaker ones, but you also know you must stay together. Each other is all you really have left. Eventually, eating what you can scavenge along walkways and roads crowded with others on the move, you reach a facility set up by the Red Cross or the UN. You are sorted like sheep. Decisions are made on the basis of fitness or available places in the camp. You have no choice. No say. No power.

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