Close your eyes and think.
Close them tight, don’t cheat.
Now, open your hand and let go of your smartphone, tablet, PC.
You don’t own one.
You have never owned one.
Imagine not being able to access the Internet. Not just for 5 minutes because the connection is down, but never.
So, you don’t know what’s going on out there. Where the world is headed, what’s happening. You don’t know what life is like in other countries, you don’t know if the world is at war or at peace, if people work, if life is easier somewhere else. You think it might be, but you can’t know for sure. You can’t, because you don’t even own a television, you can’t read the newspaper. You have no access to education. Not only because there aren’t any books around you, but because you don’t know how to read. And this is not by your choice.
Imagine waking up at 5 in the morning and being up for 2 hours before a lorry driver decides to load you onto his cargo bed, along with 60 other people. You go to work. You break rocks, huge masses until they are the size of tiny stones. You break them with a little, worn-out hammer, one-by-one, ten hours a day, with 50 degrees under the scorching sun.
You wonder about the beautiful cement roads they’ll build but who knows where they will be.
You earn your daily wage, little more than pocket change. And you go home hoping that the lorry will return to give you work tomorrow.
Imagine having witnessed your mother dying of an incurable illness that ate at her little by little. Maybe, you thought, somewhere else they would have cured her. But the only thing you could do was giving up a week’s worth of your family’s bread so that you could pay a doctor. This served no purpose though because your money could only get you a charlatan. Imagine having slept for months in the same room with your mother who screamed in pain throughout the night, slowly fading away due to her illness.
But you couldn’t afford her painkillers.
Now, imagine having to hide in order to pray your God as your father taught you. Imagine having to be ashamed of celebrating Christmas or Ramadan. Imagine having to tell your children that the prayers you teach them are a secret they can’t reveal to anyone.
Imagine watching your children wake up every morning at 5, load heavy buckets on their heads and walk kilometres to go and fetch water. They’ll queue for hours, waiting for their turn. There will be a lot of people because the water pump only works 2 days per week.
Imagine being able to sign up only one of your children for school registration. Only one. It’s not your choice, you simply can’t afford registering all of them. Who do you choose? The eldest? The boy? The one that will have a better chance of accomplishing something?
Imagine being obligated to send the others to work, selling lighters in the streets or breaking rocks just like you do.
Imagine being woken up at the dead of night by a deafening roar that makes the walls of your tin shack tremble. Imagine hearing shots. Soldiers or rebels barging into your room. They steal the little that you have, perhaps they shoot at you and they may even rape your wife right before your eyes.
Imagine now that your youngest son has a fever, a high fever. Imagine not being able to take him to the hospital. You see him trembling right in front of you and you can’t do anything. You carry him on your back and you walk an hour to get to the hospital. Imagine that once there, they tell you that the doctor is out, that the hospital isn’t open at night. So you try another clinic, and then another.
But the answer is always the same. No doctor, no medicine.
Imagine going home that night and having to hold your wife’s hand as she screams in despair after witnessing her son dying from something as simple as malaria.
Open your eyes now
Go back to your life and your smartphone
Don’t worry; none of this will ever happen to you.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. That it isn’t happening right now to someone you don’t know.
So, I beg you, think about these stories before you state your opinion on migrants and refugees.
Then you can say whatever you want, but first close your eyes and think about even just one of the scenarios I’ve recounted.
Words should always be thought over. They are a very powerful weapon. A war can be made up of words alone.
Think about being one of the people whose story you just read. Maybe you too would flee.
— Sara, EMERGENCY nurse.