Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lessons from the Other

Over recent weeks, along with millions of others, I have been distressed, dismayed, horrified by the magnitude of the refugee problem. I have never lived anywhere that isn't relatively "safe" and when I've moved, it's always been my choice at some level. I have never been forced from my home or felt that the perils of staying there were so great that I had to leave at any cost.

I hurt at my powerlessness to do much to help as an individual and also at the unwelcoming way in which many affluent countries (fail to) greet and handle those fleeing their homeland. I think there are many reasons for this but one of them is almost certainly that many refugees today are of a different race, skin color and religion from the majority of people living in the countries best equipped to receive them.

That's not right, but I think most people have had the experience of feeling slightly alienated by someone or something different. It sometimes has to be a conscious choice to overcome those feelings of prejudice, or even simple unease, with the unfamiliar.

Yet, as I've seen people in extreme circumstances being interviewed and observed the grace and dignity with which many of then face their situation, I've been forcefully struck, not only by our common humanity, but also by how much I can learn from them.

I have never been tested as they are being tested. Yet many of them seem to maintain a trust and hope in God, in the future, and in what life can hold for them, which I find truly inspiring. That leads me to believe that, far from turning people away, we should positively embrace because they have so much to teach us. We should welcome the lessons that the Other can teach us.

Karen Rose, OSB

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