“After I told my father that I’d made it to Europe, I wanted nothing more than to turn that lie into the truth. I found a smuggler and told him my story. He acted like he cared very much and wanted to help me. He told me that for 1000 Euros, he could get me to a Greek Island. He said: ‘I’m not like the other smugglers. I fear God. I have children of my own. Nothing bad will happen to you.’ I trusted this man. One night he called me and told me to meet him at a garage. He put me in the back of a van with twenty other people. There were tanks of gasoline back there, and we couldn’t breath. People started to scream and vomit. The smuggler pulled out a gun, pointed it at us, and said: ‘If you don’t shut up, I will kill you.’ He took us to a beach, and while he prepared the boat, his partner kept the gun pointed at us. The boat was made of plastic and was only three meters long. When we got on it, everyone panicked and the boat started to sink. Thirteen of the people were too scared to go. But the smuggler said that if we changed our minds, he would keep the money, so seven of us decided to go ahead. The smuggler told us that he would guide us to the island, but after a few hundred meters, he jumped off the boat and swam to shore. He told us to keep going straight. The waves got higher and higher and water began to come in the boat. It was completely black. We could see no land, no lights, only ocean. Then after thirty minutes the motor stopped. I knew we all would die. I was so scared that my thoughts completely stopped. The women started crying because none of them could swim. I lied and told them that I could swim with three people on my back. It started to rain. The boat began to turn in circles. Everyone was so frightened that nobody could speak. But one man kept trying to work on the motor, and after a few minutes it started again. I don’t remember how we reached shore. But I remember I kissed all the earth I could find. I hate the sea now. I hate it so much. I don’t like to swim it. I don’t like to look at it. I hate everything about it.” (Kos, Greece)
“The island we landed on was called Samothrace. We were so thankful to be there. We thought we’d reached safety. We began to walk toward the police station to register as refugees. We even asked a man on the side of the road to call the police for us. I told the other refugees to let me speak for them, since I spoke English. Suddenly two police jeeps came speeding toward us and slammed on the brakes. They acted like we were murderers and they’d been searching for us. They pointed guns at us and screamed: ‘Hands up!’ I told them: ‘Please, we just escaped the war, we are not criminals!’ They said: ‘Shut up, Malaka!’ I will never forget this word: ‘Malaka, Malaka, Malaka.’ It was all they called us. They threw us into prison. Our clothes were wet and we could not stop shivering. We could not sleep. I can still feel this cold in my bones. For three days we had no food or water. I told the police: ‘We don’t need food, but please give us water.’ I begged the commander to let us drink. Again, he said: ‘Shut up, Malaka!’ I will remember this man’s face for the rest of my life. He had a gap in his teeth so he spit on us when he spoke. He chose to watch seven people suffer from thirst for three days while they begged him for water. We were saved when they finally they put us on a boat and sent us to a camp on the mainland. For twelve days we stayed there before walking north. We walked for three weeks. I ate nothing but leaves. Like an animal. We drank from dirty rivers. My legs grew so swollen that I had to take off my shoes. When we reached the border, an Albanian policeman found us and asked if we were refugees. When we told him ‘yes,’ he said that he would help us. He told us to hide in the woods until nightfall. I did not trust this man, but I was too tired to run. When night came, he loaded us all into his car. Then he drove us to his house and let us stay there for one week. He bought us new clothes. He fed us every night. He told me: ‘Do not be ashamed. I have also lived through a war. You are now my family and this is your house too.’” (Kos, Greece)
Something has been increasingly catching my heart and attention – the refugee situation in our world. Note that I said – Our world. Not, their world vs our own cocooned comfort air-conditioned world.
Just few weeks ago, I got angry and reacted at a senior lady for saying ‘But they are Muslims, let God deal with them.’ Just typing this makes my blood boil with anger. I clenched my fist as I held back my tears and told her – They are human beings as how God had created each and every one of us AND commanded us to love one another.
Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. – John 13:34 Msg
Though I don’t have her prejudice, I wasn’t any better. Why do I say so?
In everything about justice, love and righteousness, I let the mindset of ‘there are so many people who need help, I can’t possibly help them all’ stop me from helping that one person.
I was ignorant. I was detached. Sure I give financially. But that sure is the easier thing to do, ain’t it? Don’t get me wrong, financial aid helps people, so yes, please do be a generous giver. But is that it? After I have given, I pat myself on the back, felt comforted that I am ‘doing something’ and let my conscience rest? I refuse to live such a life any more.
I read that 1 out of 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. Among them, many families fleeing their country because of conflict, persecution or natural disasters.
“Wait until you see what happens when there’s an absence of water, an absence of food, or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
I am really far off from what the advocates and activists have been doing in this area. Heck, I’m blur like sotong; I don’t even know an inch of what does it mean to be an advocate or activist. But, I refuse to let my excuse of ‘I don’t know’, ‘this is too big’, ‘what can little me do’ or worse, ‘someone is already doing something’ hold me captive any longer.
I don’t have a plan yet, but I no longer want to be silent. I’m joining this 7-year old girl with her ‘lemon-aid’ stand who raised fund for refugees and many other people who don’t want to be bystanders anymore.