Dear Syrian refugee:
I imagine you reading this on a borrowed laptop or Smartphone hunched in a bunk in some uncomfortable refugee center in Germany or Holland. Maybe you’re one of those still wandering the roads of Eastern Europe or shivering, wet and storm-tossed on the Mediterranean. I dearly hope you are not still trapped in Syria, struggling to reach the border. Wherever you are, please know that you are in my prayers. I have been thinking about you a lot lately.
I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty you have been experiencing. I’m sure you feel worn out, angry and perhaps even a little bit ashamed. You have lost your homes, and many of you have lost family members in the carnage you left behind. Perhaps there are those back in Syria who claim you’ve let them down, or even called you a coward opting to run. Please know: I do not think of you that way. I think you’re very brave and resilient. Faced with those who worship death, you chose life. That in itself is an act of great moral courage. By your continued existence, therefore, you shame Da’esh. You are a true hero. And now you are on your way here.
Listen, I think I should warn you that there are some people who are not very happy that you’re coming. Despite our many advancements in science and technology (and comparative social stability) there are still some among us who choose to live in fear and ignorance. There are people in Canada who don’t want you to come here because you are Middle Eastern and they dislike Arabs. Others know very little about Islam except what they read in the news and it frightens them. Still others insist that you are agents of Da’esh, coming to destroy us. These people have been thinking about you, too – mostly about ways to block your coming here. A few have even made threats.
But it doesn’t matter. You’re coming.
You’re coming because in Canada most of us believe we are stronger because of our differences, not in spite of them. We have welcomed refugees from all over the world into our multi-cultural society and many have gone on to become distinguished contributors to Canadian culture – doctors and scientists, artists, lawyers and teachers. One, Michelle Jean, emigrated here from Jamaica to become the Governor General – the Queen’s envoy to Canada, the highest office in the land. Who knows what your contribution will be? Only you can determine that. Here in Canada, there is a place waiting for you – a place that only you can fill.
I hope your journey to us is a safe one. I hope you experience kindness from strangers along the way. And once you arrive, I hope you are welcomed. Ignore any on our shores who greet you unkindly or with disrespect. They do not reflect the true soul of Canada. Because I’ll tell you a secret. Even if Da’esh has hidden its members among you, we still want you to come. Because most Canadians are willing to risk their own lives in order to save someone else’s. This willingness, ingrained in so many by circumstance and great sacrifices in the cause of human freedom, have become part of the national character. And now that the government has promised to settle you among us, you are no less a part of Canada than we, who put a light in the window, and lay an extra plate on the table. We are waiting to welcome you home.