Even before the terrorist attack in Paris,
(And not forgetting similar attacks in Beirut and Kenya and elsewhere!)
There was debate and concern about the flood of refugees fleeing the Middle East, particularly Syria, and making their way to Europe. Since the attack, the debate has intensified and the rhetoric has reached a fevered pitch. To be honest, while I recognize the significant concern about safety and security and I feel the deep sadness over what human beings do to each other, especially in the name of God, some of what I hear and read concerning those who are, literally, running for their lives makes me sick to my stomach.
How quickly we forget our own story.
At least, my family’s story.
My family’s heritage is primarily Scottish and Irish.
When they made their way to this country and to western Pennsylvania where they settled, they were refugees. They had fled their homeland because of poverty and famine. They crossed the ocean and made their way across the mountains of central Pennsylvania in a desperate attempt to start a new life for their children and their grandchildren. Were they any less afraid and was their journey any less treacherous than the journey being made by those fleeing poverty and war in Syria? I don’t know. But, the story is the same. I don’t know if my forebearers faced the same type of backlash and fear that Syrian refugees face today. I do know that Irish immigrants/refugees in New York did. As did Italian immigrants/refugees and Asian immigrants/refugees did. And Hispanic immigrants/refugees do.
Do we forget so quickly?
And so I wonder…
Can I let the both the courage my great, great grandparents had and the fear they felt push its way from the past into my life today and so make space for understanding?