Refugee plans can only work if we make them

It is heartening to hear the Town of Lake Cowichan suggesting a place in the community that may be able to house some Syrian refugees

It is heartening to hear the Town of Lake Cowichan suggesting a place in the community that may be able to house some Syrian refugees, on a temporary basis, at least.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, we have heard and read far too much from far too many people about how we should be digging a moat around our little island of Canada and refusing entry to these desperate, war-ravaged people.

It seems to escape an awful lot of folks, who react out of fear rather than compassion, that these refugees are running from Daesh (the newest moniker for ISIS), and have absolutely no interest in joining them. They know firsthand, better than most of us ever will, what Daesh is and the horrors they bring, and they have fled, wanting no part of it.

But instead of seeing men, women, and children who just want to live somewhere that they don’t have to worry about having bombs dropped on them as they go to school or the marketplace, or being conscripted into whoever’s army happens to be in control of the territory in which they live at that particular moment, a lot of westerners, a lot of Canadians, instead see only potential terrorists. “Them”, not “us”.

Of the millions hoping to come here we will be taking in a few thousand. And all these folks want is a  chance to get on with their lives in peace.

We have screening processes to make sure as best we can that nobody we bring here will be interested in harming us. These procedures are thorough and established. Our federal government has now lengthened the timeline to bring the promised 25,000 refugees here by a couple of months, to make sure we do it right.

But the only way it can really work is if we are welcoming and willing to help these people, who have known loss on a level most of us cannot imagine. We must be willing to offer them the tools to become part of our society and our communities, as many immigrants to this nation have in the past.

But we must also offer them open hearts and a friendly smile, not hostility and resentment or fear.

Think of what we would want, or hope for, if it was us fleeing our homes, leaving everything behind for an uncertain future in a foreign culture.

Then act.

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