Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Experiencing the Amsterdam Catholic Worker

As I begin to write this, it is 4:00 a.m. back home in Maryland and 1:36 a.m. on the west coast.

I will wait a bit before I share specific stories. (Perhaps a tad paranoid, but I do not want to put into jeopardy anyone who is seeking asylum. I am not in jeopardy as I do not break any laws, but given ability to hack online & search, I do not want to lead anyone to one of these people. They have been through enough.)

Suffice it to say at this point, that we who are safe, secure, and relatively healthy and peaceful do not realize on a gut level just how fortunate we are. Richard Engel, NBC Bureau Chief for the Middle East and only in his early 30's, reminds us how easy it is to become numbed to tragedy.

Sitting with one of the people seeking asylum and listening to their experience in whatever English they can manage can be heartbreaking.

Being hunted down in their own country (because their father was on the losing side, because they have the wrong religion, because they refuse to fight or to join the terrorists, etc.)

Then having to hide and try to escape,

having their parents pay large sums of money to "travel agents,"only to be left behind once abroad,

finding themselves alone in a foreign country, knowing no one, and not speaking the language,

  • having to defend themselves from unscrupulous people, from the police
  • often put into prison
  • living in the street
  • hoping against hope for some help
  • people passing you by and looking the other way

But that is not the end of the story...

Perhaps you find a group of people to help you, to take you in. You then begin a long journey to prove you cannot possibly go back to oyur own country. (If you went back, you would face torture, waisting away in a small jail cell for years with 50 other people and little or no food, and finally possibly death)

So the journey in the new country involves:

  • trying desperately to find some proof for asylum
  • not being allowed to work or get career training or education
  • learning the new language as best you can
  • having no idea if your parent(s), siblings or alive.
  • no one back home to contact

IMAGINE, my friends, living one month much less 10 years like that.

May I ask you to:

  • stop and pray for them?
  • think what else can you do today?
  • get the word out?

Phil in Holland, for now.

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Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.