Vancouver Immigration Blog often receives posts from individuals seeking to share a platform for their thoughts and ideas. When I received this piece by Ms. Zayneb Khairy (through an email to me), I immediately connected to her words. I hope you all enjoy this beautiful account of one Vancouverite’s views of working with Arab refugees and how it has affected her worldview as much as I did. I have not made any edits, and it appears in it’s original form. It is truly inspiring – WT.
Photo captions: By Ahill34 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53280088
I would like to share with you what I consider a perceptive account of my personal experience with the Arab refugees’ situation – particularly Syrians and Iraqis — here in Canada.
I believe most of you know that the Canadian government — in keeping with its humanitarian duties — has been welcoming thousands of refugees, most of whom are fleeing their homelands for a wide array of reasons. However, I assume what most of you do NOT know is that the government is not the sole sponsor for these refugees. Apparently, groups of individuals and private corporations have also been very actively involved in the settlement process of these refugees, either by privately raising funds or by using their own money to sponsor and support people coming from abroad. It turns out that the involvement of the Canadian public dates back to 1979, when Canada started welcoming Vietnamese refugees, something that made Canada a world-class pioneer in such an initiative.
Needless to say, bringing refugees to Canada is just the beginning of a long journey those private sponsors take along with the sponsored refugees, where they venture together into the different possibilities and opportunities awaiting the newcomers in their new home Canada. It is worth mentioning that the amount of resources needed to accommodate the new settlers and assist them in adjusting and acclimatizing to the new environment, are incredulously tremendous. Yet those private sponsors have pledged to do their best to make the lives of their guests as smooth and as comfortable as possible.
For me, this was a stunning revelation. It truly made me question the entire ethical, moral, and ideological systems ingrained in the societies in which I was born and brought up. In fact, hundreds of lingering questions have been bubbling in my head since I came upon these valuable eye opening facts about the refugees’ sponsorship process in Canada. For starters, it made me think, why on earth would these sponsors go out of their way and go through all the trouble of securing the necessary resources, whether by fundraising or by sharing their own income, to willingly and all wholeheartedly bring complete strangers, the majority of whom happen to be Muslims, to their home Canada ? Haven’t they heard of xenophobia, for God’s sake? What happened to the ”Islamophobia” narrative? Where did all the animosity the media have been relentlessly trying to feed us go?
Well, apparently Mr. Trump has no audience here, and North America is not after all America! As you will see once you continue reading, fortunately the world is still “Arab and Islam friendly”.
I won’t say I have found the answers to all of my inquiries so far, but I can confidently say I have come to a sound, reasonable understanding, at least for me. I started looking back at the countries I had lived in, mainly in the Arab world, the part of the world where my generation has been struggling, until this very moment, to justify its moral obligation towards those who were facing different forms of hardship, be it war, famine, or natural disasters, and were in need of dire help. Of course, we were expected to fulfil this obligation for some reason. And to be clearer, for some corny, run-of- the mill reason at least from my perspective. There should be a reason, no?
As if the mere idea of lending another human being a hand was not enough, we would frequently hear — particularly in the last few years that followed what has been called the Arab Spring — from those who called themselves scholars and preachers, clichéd justification to legitimize any act of kindness, generosity, or help. For example, we would hear them talk about helping people with whom we shared the same religion, beliefs, history, land or language, or those who belonged to our tribe, race, or sect.
They would go on and on to fill an entire list of vain reasons reflecting centuries of racial and bigoted attitudes.
Sad to say, none of the reasons had to do with our humanity. The message was never as simple and straightforward as “we are morally obliged to help other human beings facing any form of adversity only for the sake of being humans.” There were always earnest attempts to dig and search for labels, labels laden with bias and prejudice, to apply to those who needed our help, to qualify them and render them help-worthy.
These ignorant attempts have stripped human beings from their perfect sense of humanity. We were unconsciously led to look at those in need from the narrowest, tiniest, and unfortunately ugliest discriminating angle that reflects ages of narrow-minded and shallow thinking.
Going back to the situation here in Canada, I would be lying to say that people here are angels, and that there are no fanatics or extremists. Canada is not the kingdom of heaven , it is just an example of a society that has been trying to put its differences aside and look at the bigger meaningful picture. A lot of people here have been trying to lead a purposeful life where “giving back to the society” is their daily mantra. Those people have created a contagious culture, where volunteer work is valued, respected, and encouraged; where diversity is celebrated, and differences are appreciated. Those are the people who believe that they are meant to live as citizens of the world and don’t limit themselves to the narrow boundaries of their surroundings.
For those of you who know me well, you know that I have no personal gain out of writing these words, nevertheless I found myself morally obliged to share with the rest of the world my deep experience in the midst of global nonsense about race, religion, gender, and nationality. I truly believe that people have been purposefully steered away from the bigger cause of their existence. Instead of peacefully coexisting, and sharing the natural resources available to them, they have been fiercely drawn into endless struggles that have created nothing but frenzy, chaos, and devastation.
Frankly speaking, living in a diverse, inclusive society is not just a blessing, it is a learning experience by itself. It takes living to a whole new level. I believe the learned lesson from my own adventure is that we humans are all part of a bigger beautiful holy puzzle. Each one of us has a crucial, carefully scripted role to play, to make this puzzle a complete masterpiece. Every piece counts, and every single piece is equally important. And that humanity is a priceless value, worth being celebrated by itself.
I would like to invite all of you to share with me this conviction, by pledging to cherish and to live up to our humanity.