An Open Letter on World Refugee Day

Dear Friend, 

Some may call you by the name "refugee," others "asylum-seeker" and as for me, I wish I knew your real name. 

Today, I remember you and the harsh reality where you find yourself. Today, I want to apologize.

I’m sorry for any time I called you “the other.”

You have a name and a story with it, I’m sure.

 

I’m sorry for using fear as an excuse not to hear your voice.

Because your cries weren’t just drowned out by me, they were drowned out by many.

 

I’m sorry for the times I let one narrative define you.

Because I could have sought the truth and instead settled for the words of someone like me, not someone who knows you.

 

I’m sorry that I ever assumed that you were a certain age, a certain demeanor, a certain ugly stereotype.

You are unique, beautifully and intricately so.

 

I’m sorry for questioning whether you were deserving of safety.

Because you are fully human and fully deserve human rights.

 

I’m sorry for staying silent instead of standing with you.

Because silence screams and instead I spoke freely of careless things.

 

I’m so, so sorry my brother, my sister, because the hands that formed you formed me too. My own false pretenses made you out to be something to be feared. But there is no fear in love.

 

Most of all, I am sorry that I did not love you when I should have.

I am sorry because you are infinitely worthy of love and instead received closed hearts barricaded by fear.

 

 We’ve probably not met face-to-face.

You probably weren’t given the chance.

 

But if we do meet (and I hope we do).

I want to know you–your story, your hopes, your dreams and the quirky things that make you who you are.

 

Because you’re not just a refugee.

That’s your current state and one that I hope you find is temporary.

 

Because we all need “home.”

That safe place where walls come down and we are irrevocably ourselves, quirks and all.

 

You’re not just a refugee, you’re a human with loves and fears, who laughs and cries, who thinks and creates and admires beauty.

 

You probably have songs that make you want to get up and dance.

 

Maybe there’s a food that when you smell it, you remember your favorite meals as a child.

 

You know the streets where you grew up–the shops, the cafes, the smells wafting in the air.

 

You know the voices of those you love and what each tone means.

 

You know the feeling of sunshine on your face and the dark of nightfall.

 

You have stories that form your identity, a different set than me.

 

I want to hear you, I want to hear your stories, I want to grieve with you for that home which you left behind.

 

Because you’re not just a refugee.

 You're fully human and so brave. 

Now, I stand with you.