What you believe to be true, so the opposite is also true
Timber Hawkeye – Buddhist Boot Camp.
In 2001 I was offered the opportunity to work in a team that would be involved in interviewing people coming into the UK; they needed to apply for National Insurance Numbers thus giving them the right to work in the UK. We processed thousands of applications from people from many different backgrounds; people working for large corporations coming in from Japan, Australia, America would be followed by people who had fled their homes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa,Burma and China, as well as British Nationals who had just never had an identity for various reasons (careleavers, Romany Gypsies,) all of them had a reason for being in the UK. I was honoured to work with the most compassionate, caring people I could wish for. The stories that some of those people told us about why they had fled their countries were harrowing. The bravery they had to make that journey only to be faced by prejudice and hatred upon arrival, not to mention those that were being forced to work by gangmasters who then took all of their money, could put many people to shame. I worked that job for three years and I learned a lot about determination, tenacity, resourcefulness and above all, compassion.
Two weeks ago I had a friend visiting me here in Austria. I had travelled to a town in Germany to collect her from the station. There I met a group of young men who asked for help with regards to which train they should get to Munich. The conversation was difficult. Not because I did not speak German but because they did not speak German and only one of them spoke a little English. I explained that the next train was not until the following morning. They would need to stay on the station for 6 hours or find somewhere to sleep. At this point they said that they had been travelling for weeks and 6 hours on a station with cover was not an issue, in fact it would be the most comfortable place they had spent a night for some time. The man I was speaking to was from Syria, he was a Dr. His family were all dead and his house had been burnt down. He escaped. He walked, swam and begged passage with the intention of getting to Sweden because he knew they would help him there. He had one small backpack, as did his companions. They did not ask me for anything other than help to work out how to get to Munich. They had travel passes issued by the police on the previous train. There were others on the platform without travel passes, I have no idea of their story as my friend arrived and I had to leave the station. I think about them daily and wonder if they made it to Sweden.
I needed no reality check as to the suffering and prejudice that refugees face every day of their lives, I needed no reminder that these people are just doing whatever it takes to survive. I have heard their stories before, I have cried with colleagues over cups of tea following an interview, I have sat and listened to the strength and determination in their voice and being in awe of their resolve to LIVE despite what they were and are going through.
Today I read a report about British Holidaymakers being disgusted at sharing their beaches in Kos with refugees and how it was ruining their holidays. Now, as it was a daily mail report, I am taking that with a pinch of salt because I really don’t want to believe that humans can be that unkind. If it is true (even a minority saying it) then I want to say: “If you want to live in fairyland then STAY AT HOME!
So, people think that their holiday is being spoiled, their journey on Eurotunnel was “hell”, their towns and cities are being ruined all “thanks to the “filth” “marauding” “cockroaches” as the media and politicians have them called; well, I want to ask those people:
- When was the last time you had to fight to stay alive?
- When was the last time you had nothing but the clothes you had on your back?
- When was the last time you had to walk for miles without food or water?
- When was the last time you faced dealing with a group of people filled with hatred for no reason other than the press had stirred them up?
- When was the last time you investigated the reasons for the refugee crisis. By that I don’t mean listening to the press and the politicians who have their own agenda, I mean really investigated what is going on in Syria and the reasons behind it all?
- Would you do anything to ensure that your children survive?
Remember, when a “celebrity” deems it fair to call somebody a cockroach ask what value she brings to the world, what privileges does she have that others don’t? How would you feel if it was your family that she was calling a cockroach? When a Prime Minister describes “swarms” of migrants ask yourself what is his agenda? When newspapers consistently refuse to use the words “refugee crisis” rather than “waves of migrants” ask yourself who owns those papers, what are they gaining from dehumanising people. Most of all remember that these are PEOPLE that they are talking about. Men, Women and Children just like you, just like your Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister, Son and Daughter. PEOPLE who are simply trying to survive. HUMAN BEINGS WITH FEELINGS, HOPES, DESIRES, NEEDS AND RIGHTS.
As for the word illegal, it is defined as “contrary to or forbidden by law” how is a person simply attempting to move to another country considered to be breaking the law? There is no law (as far as I am aware) that says that people cannot attempt to survive in whatever way they choose, including moving to other countries and continents.
Prejudice will always exist, it is human nature. It is what we do with our judgement that matters. It doesn’t matter what you believe to be right or wrong, it simply matters that you show a little compassion for those that are fighting for their lives. Wouldn’t you want that if you were in their position?