Monday, November 16, 2015

Why my Canada welcomes refugees

Like most of the world, I followed the events in Baghdad, Lebanon and Paris last week until my heart couldn’t take anymore. 

While these events have been escalating for several years, when it doesn’t make the suppertime news, it’s easier to push away. 

It’s mind blowing how much control American media has on our perception of what’s going on in the world. No matter how much we hate to admit it, it guides what we see and what we don’t. What we care about and what we don’t. What we see as important and what we don’t. That’s a hefty responsibility. 

There is so much information at our fingertips and yet many people still choose to glean information from headlines alone. 

I also saw stories of compassion and love and bravery and people who refused to stay hidden in their homes. I saw hundreds gather together to mourn, despite warnings not to. 

They refused to be afraid.

Those stories rarely make the biggest headlines. 

This morning I awoke, not surprisingly, to a few people, a few states and a few countries, saying they will not risk allowing refugees into their communities. 

When you live in fear, you are under control. 

When I heard the doors start to close, I thought of the fear on the faces of the refugees. 

They are already running, and have been, for much longer than us. They are pawns, living in limbo, terrified that the world will hand them over and close their doors. 

They are terrified that we will be too afraid to stand up for them, terrified evil will win. 

Aren’t we all. 

It warmed my heart to see Parisians still bringing food and clothing to refugees. It broke my heart to hear the stories in Lebanon of people throwing themselves in harm’s way to save others. 

What defines you as a country, and as a person, is your ability to stand united, with strength and compassion in the wake of terrible personal tragedy and loss, and your ability to remain human, even when a particular group wants to make you as inhumane as they are. 

You'll  notice I say “particular group”. I won’t give their name that power or that exposure. 

And, while I’m at it, I won’t assign them a religion either. They have no religion. Trying to assign a religion to your atrocities means nothing to me. 

I am not that easily fooled.

We have fought wars since the dawn of time in the name of almost every religion known, but war has nothing to do with religion. It never has. 

I can call myself an elephant all day long. I’m still not an elephant. 

It’s about power, and control and fear. It’s about revenge and anger and hate.

And make no mistake, the hate I have witnessed on comment forums, or worse, from people I know, is no different. 

Hate is hate, yours or theirs. It’s all the same. If you believe refugees will come here and take your job, you don’t understand the term refugee, among other things. 

If you believe that we can’t help others while also helping those in need here, you don’t understand compassion, among other things. 

Last week’s attacks have clearly made the fear surrounding the refugee crisis far greater than it already was.

You’re afraid? 

Ok, well then, fear I understand. I have family and friends and a life. Like many of my generation, I have never had to face the horrors of war. I’ve never fought for another person or country the way so many service men and women do every day. My bravery has never been truly tested. 

So I get it. 

Letting refugees into our country is a risk. Sure, it could potentially open us up to further terrorist attacks.

And it might not. Please remember that hundreds of thousands of refugees have been fleeing for over four years. This isn't a new issue. Perspective is key. 

To believe that Canada is not already at risk is naïve. It is no longer “us and them”. Terror is no longer taking place “somewhere else”. We should know that from events in the past few years. 

This is our reality in 2015. 

Do you truly believe that if we refuse to help others, terrorists will look the other way? Pass us over? C’mon. 

I welcome refugees in Canada.

I welcome the Canada that we have always been; peace keepers, protectors, a safe haven. 

Judging by the results of the most recent federal election, I know I am not alone in these beliefs. 

The goal of terrorism is to keep us afraid, divided. Terrorists want us to close our borders.

I keep seeing people asking other groups and countries, “Why aren’t you doing something about this? Why aren’t you standing up as a group and saying no more?”

My question is always, why aren’t you? Why aren’t I? 

I can’t fight terrorists. I can’t fly a fighter jet, or drop a bomb, or plan a military invasion. 

But I can control whether I add more hate into the world or more love. I can control who I choose to be.

Will hope and love alone change the world? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s a whole lot more likely to do it than hate and fear, I can promise you that.

So, what are you going to do as a Canadian? 

Live in fear? Or stand up for something? 

Every time someone spreads hate towards another group of people, we’re losing.

Every time someone sticks their head in the sand, we’re losing. 

Feeling fear is ok. But it’s not ok to let it guide your decisions. Not in day to day life, and not in war. 

Closing our borders and closing our hearts will not make us safer. But it will make us less human. I encourage Canadians to look long and hard at who they want to be. 

I’ve never been good with being told what to do. I like to believe that’s the Canadian in me. 

I will not be told to live in fear. I will not be forced to live in fear. I will not ever live in fear.

I will die before I allow someone to force me to be the type of person that turns my back on another human being.  

When you choose your fear over your humanity, you’re already losing.

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