Reflections on World Refugee DayWritten by Sina N.
The United Nations declared June 20thWorld Refugee Day in 2000. The focus of this year’s World Refugee Day is the impact of war on families. Muslim Link asked Ottawa resident Sina N. to share her thoughts on this day.
Sina N.: My family and I came to Canada in 1990. We were originally from Afghanistan but had flown to Canada from India. On this day I reflect on a question that I constantly come across. That question is: “Why come to this country and still want to be rooted in your culture? You come to Canada, therefore you should be so happy.”
Coming to Canada for refugees is never a choice. We came to Canada because there was no other choice. Believe it or not, Canada was the only refuge for us; refuge from war, torture and starvation. When we were forced out, everything was sold or left behind, including pictures, books, toys, etc., and our very existence came down to the clothes on our backs and a couple of necessary items that we could fit in a tiny suitcase.
At that instance, everything that my parents had grown up with was gauged on survival, “if I bring this item, will it help me survive this trek out of war?” For my parents, Canada was painted as a place where intellectuals and academics could strive and continue in the paths they had begun back home. But on coming to Canada, all of that which they had been promised was absent. All credentials other than those received in a recognized Canadian institution were deemed inadequate. Coming to Canada and losing all of that which they had worked so hard for was not a choice my parents made.
For my parents, coming to Canada meant peace, it meant never feeling hungry; it meant never seeing death because of war. The price for this: their identities. But that was not an option. Having lost everything, they weren’t going to part with their identities.
I grew up in a very Afghan home. At 28 years old, I speak my language with pride. At 28, I know of my nation’s rich history. I can be thankful for all that because I was raised here, in Canada. My parents today are thankful because we, their children, were able to take advantage of the opportunities in Canada. We are able to choose our paths free from war.
Please know that I do not speak on behalf of all refugees and that I am just sharing my humble story of what I see and what I reflect on this World Refugee Day. There is not one refugee story that can capture every single experience; it is as diverse as the number of refugees in this world.
To learn more about World Refugee Day visit: http://www.unhcr.ca/wrd/
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