A Refugee’s Tale
‘Welcoming the Stranger’ was the theme of our 36th annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Knock Shrine. That same day, 28 May 2016, the Irish Times carried the moving story of a Syrian refugee.
The article, attributed to Mustafa in Athens, is based on a conversation with Irish journalist Fintan Drury.
It is a powerful individual tale that puts a human face on the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been forced to make life-changing decisions in multiple life-threatening situations in recent years.
Mustafa recalls a ‘wonderful’ childhood in a loving and very happy family ‘in a large Syrian city – that is a city no longer’:
“We never wanted for the important things: the love of our parents and wider family; a peaceful neighbourhood where people looked out for one another. We ate well because our mother was a good cook and proud of how she fed her family.”
An Irish colleague some years earlier had remarked to Mustafa how similar his upbringing appeared to his own upbringing in Cork.
The article charts Mustafa’s journey from Syria to Greece, from being a competent professional man in his mid-30s, with a wife and a young daughter, to being an isolated refugee trapped in a camp on the outskirts of Athens with mostly Syrians but also Afghan, Iraqi, Kurdish, Iranian, Libyan, Middle Eastern and African refugees. Many of the refugees, he says, ‘are professionals or tradespeople, and most have left a good standard of living for fear of their lives.’
There are many memorable quotations from the article. Here are a few, with the link to the full article given at the end:
“… I would describe myself foremost as a human who wants a safe and secure life for my family. I am an Arab. I am a Muslim … “I’m a Syrian … I am a son. I am a brother. I’m a husband, a friend and, for the past three years, a father. My ethnicity, my colour, my religion do not define me.
“I realise that one of the words I’ve used elicits fear in many: “Muslim”. This upsets me, but I understand its source as the connection of certain events with those who promote them based on their warped interpretation of Islam …
“Most here share a fundamental belief: that no religious doctrine warrants taking human life …
“This may not comfort those who regard all Muslims with suspicion. Atrocities committed in the name of Islam are an abomination. They frighten you and humiliate us. There’s nothing in our faith that justifies engaging in violence. Those who do pervert the teachings of Muhammad. “
Read Irish Times article: