“I Am A Refugee :: Bonane, Congo”

A couple of weeks ago a friend shared a post about Syrian photographer and activist, Shamel Al-Ahmad who chose to remain in Aleppo rather than seeking refuge in a safer country. This courageous soul was ultimately killed as he stayed to document the atrocities in his beloved hometown. As Americans we have never really had to make this heart wrenching choice, between ultimate safety or clinging to the land that we love at all costs. 

There really are no words to describe seeing images of people arriving at far away shores seeking refuge while pouring out of overfilled boats, little girls with life preservers made out of duct tape and styrofoam, or having water cannons turned on them as they try to cross "borders" to safety. How can we as humans say, "No, you are not welcome here. This is my country. Turn around and go home." Are we really that dead inside? Is it really all about US (pun intended)? Do we not see our children, parents, grandparents, our brothers and sisters in the faces of these humans desperate for a safer life? Or do we see a terrorist, a potential threat, and/or someone who is going to take something from US. 

It's time to take stock of our conscience and see what damage we have done to help create the mess that the world is in. Before it is too late. Look inside your heart. For them. For the future. For one day it may be US that is desperately seeking refuge and when the tables are turned how will we be treated then?

In closing I would like to post an image of a beautiful young boy, Bonane who was juggling a soccer ball when I came upon him while on a walkabout in NE Portland. A refugee from the Congo, Bonane served as translator so I could get to know a little bit about his family. "Why Portland?", I asked. He replied sweetly, "Because you welcome refugees and that makes us happy." After a few photos and some hugs the family invited me to come back to their home and visit to take more photos in the future.

-Jeanine Flaton-Buckley