Monday, August 12, 2013

The Human Face Of Asylum Seekers

There are some things in life that cannot be truly known unless experienced.  We may seek to understand the world we live in by a variety of sources of information, but when we listen to people's stories and experiences we gain a perspective of life that you cannot really get from a secondhand report.  

This was brought home to me last night listening to the courageous story of a Sudanese refugee who had escaped the war of Sudan as a child and spent 12 years in a refugee camp in Kenya before a complicated journey that enabled her to settle in Australia.  As she spoke into the challenge for Australians in understanding the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, she made the most gracious statement I think I have heard in recent political and social discussion about this issue.  Haluel said, "I don't blame Australians because you will never feel something you have never experienced."  

This profoundly humble statement put a different colour skin on the prayer of St. Francis, "O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love."  Despite the pain of her own journey, Haluel had the humility to recognise how difficult it is for people who have not traveled her pathway to feel the depth of desperation that compels vulnerable people to make a dangerous journey towards the hope of a better life.  

It is my sincere prayer that all Australians would reciprocate this humility by listening more to the stories and experiences of others when considering the challenge for asylum seekers and refugees, than the politically motivated rhetoric that is dehumanising this humanitarian issue.

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