Yesterday, after the kids’ performance, the audience was invited to ask questions or make comments. The questions were dense and used sophisticated language – we really are very ignorant – but one raised a pertinent point for me about survival.
An audience member respectfully asked about the place of religion/faith in the journeys of the refugees. The kids predominantly fled from Iraq and Syria, the world’s hotspots, through secondary places like Jordan. The kids identify predominantly as either Muslim or Christian.
They responded that their faith is irrelevant in the friendships that they have built together, and has been instrumental to their survival.
Their faith enabled hope to flame in very hope-less situations. That hope enabled them to keep moving forward and to keep fighting for freedom.
Often in the mainstream media, refugees are depicted as manipulative and cunning tricksters who know how wonderful Australia is, and plot to come here because they don’t want to be in their place of birth; they want to pillage what we have. Achmed (not sure about spelling), an outgoing 19 year old, here for less than a year, fled Syria with his family and said, along the lines of, he is grateful to be in Australia, to be safe and to be free, but if his village hadn’t been razed he would love to still be in Syria. And I get this.
No one wants to leave their homeland behind when all is safe, never to return, never to see it again. Even when I travel, my home is Australia, as much as I feel at home in many other countries. If I was in a situation where I had to flee my homeland to stay alive, never to return and never to see the many people I love, I would be devastated. When this departure is a choice, the impact is different.
Further to that, and back to the point I started making (obviously still processing – significant too that we saw it on the day that Paris was attacked), I often in recent times have suggested that our youth are not resilient. They suffer in their lives, and become drowned and suffocated by their suffering. They don’t know how to move forward, how to survive.
I wonder if that is due to a lack of faith … in anything.
I am not a Christian, and have never been. I am religious though. I only found a name for my religion in my early twenties but I had been practicing my entire life. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the back verandah of the flat my parents lived in on Petersham Road in Marrickville, talking to the moon. I’m sure my memory is idealised; I was only three, and the flat and world seemed so big around me, yet the moon was so close. As my childhood progressed I would often talk to the higher beings, and these conversations, as well as the faith that there was more, sustained me.
Similarly, these refugees have survived.
Is our society disconnecting at the most basic level because many individuals have no faith?
I do believe that this disconnection creates the opportunity for extremists to recruit. After all, we all want to belong somewhere and to something. I’m not saying that dogmatic, often hypocritical, organized forms of religion are the way to go. I’m suggesting that maybe faith permits us a path to follow or a hand to hold in bad times; an awareness of something greater or bigger than ourselves.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s where we have collectively let our kids down. Decadence and capitalism do not offer that hope.