This summer everywhere I look, I see fire. Fires rage in California and in my own B.C., the skies are filled with smoke and towns are evacuated. My heart hurts for the forests and people there. I pray for rain, for a year of rain that would wipe away this drought.
And there is war, and people fleeing war, and people without homes, too many of them, overwhelming numbers. The numbers of displaced people alone cause people to say hurtful things, to tighten their borders out of fear, to determine to look out for themselves. I’m from a country formed by immigrants and refugees. Canada doesn’t really have its own identity, other than the identity that comes from collaboration of many different races. So it’s easy to forget that this is new to Europe- that each country has an identity that they fear for. Someone I was talking with recently said, “But the immigrants want to change things, threaten the way of life of the people of my country.” Of course, I thought, because countries are shaped by the people who come to them. That’s the way it works. But that’s the way Canada works. Vancouver is Indian and Chinese and Indigenous and a bunch of other cultures and all the second and third generation people of those countries and hipster of every race. This is who we are. But Europe is used to being a place of origin, not of landing, the countries there don’t have as much history with navigating multiculturalism and navigating citizen rights of many races. There is no one kind of Canadian who is more Canadian than someone else (other than an indigenous person, perhaps) but there are plenty of people who consider themselves a true German, or a true French person. It makes it complicated, but I hate the vitriol I see on the Internet. Let's extend compassion and kind words toward the people who have fled for their lives. As someone told me in West Africa, "That person is my brother. That person could be me."
Here in Northern Thailand there are people of many origins too. Tribal people, Muslims from China, Burmese people, Thai people, foreigners. It mostly seems to work. But there are always things. “The owner is Lisu,” a Thai friend said to me when I was looking for a house for somebody else. “But that’s okay, right?” Him saying “That’s okay right?” was indicative of his open mind, and I don’t say that sarcastically. For the most part, people seem to get along, despite huge differences in lifestyle, dress and culture, but it’s messy, and people say hurtful things, and this is a result of many people living together. It's always going to be messy, like communities, like families. People are there, and where there are differences, there is mess. How we respond to differences says a lot about who we are and who we want to be.
I don’t know what the answer is for Syrians or Europe or the refugee crisis. But I know that we can’t hold back tragedy with fear and control, at least I don’t think we can. Opening our hearts changes us most of all. Refusing to give into fear for the future by clutching what we have keeps us open and human and good. But these are hard days, and I think everyone is being called on to be their best selves. I am praying. We’re having a benefit next Friday, to do our little bit of raising money for refugees. I’ll let you know where we’re sending money when I know, (our dear Naomi is researching NGOs) so that you can join in if you want to.