As many of you know, I work with refugees. On a daily basis I come face to face with my incredible privilege of being born in Canada. Every day, I am grateful for the fact that I have always felt relatively safe in Canada. While I have dealt with discrimination being a fat lesbian, I have never known actual fear for my life based on my opinions, political beliefs, or lack of religious belief. I have always felt free to express my views and beliefs and, as my blog will attest, I have been doing this since 2007 with almost 1100 posts.
On Wednesday, The Current on CBC Radio One, broadcasted some interviews from 2 individuals one either side of the Israel/Gaza conflict. I am not going to get into the particulars or my opinions on this conflict as it is a quagmire and not really relevant to this post. What struck me was the absolute terror both people felt at the bombing going on in their countries, places where they should have the right to feel safe.
First up they spoke with a man who lived in the Gaza Strip. He had children and Israeli bombs had fallen within 60 metres of his home. They had been with electricity for days, which was impacting their ability to get fresh water into their homes. Every day he has to go out and try to find food and water for his family; every day he feared he would come home and his house and family would be gone. He just wanted a safe place to raise his family where he could provide food and water for his children.
Next they interviewed a woman who lived in a city close to the border with Gaza. The woman worked at a university in a city about close to the border. She expressed gratitude that she lived 40 km from her work as the missiles were unlikely to hit her home. She then relayed the process everyone goes through when the air raid sirens sound while they are driving. They have to pull over, get out of their cars and seek cover. She said this had happened on her way to work that day. The only thing I could think of was how I would not even consider going to work if this was happening where I live. She also mentioned a co-worker who sent an email saying she couldn’t leave her house until this was over as she was too afraid.
Engaging with people’s stories from war torn regions is worthwhile process. It puts things in perspective for us as we imagine, for just a moment, what that might be like. I wonder quite often how refugees cope with having to uproot and leave everything they have ever known and come to our strange, cold country. Where do they find the strength? The only thing I can think of is that out of great fear and persecution, a strength is born. Sometimes I wonder if I would have that strength; could I endure what other people have to in their lives?