For three years I’ve listened to this woman.
She is a divorced Pakistani woman with a child. She wants to flee her country’s oppression of women and her fear of an ex-husband who wants to kill her.
I feel sad and helpless for this woman. I’ve spent months trying to understand the US visa system and process for immigration or refugee status. No immigrants from Pakistan are accepted in the Diversity Visa category this year, the only place I saw that she might qualify.
The raw desperation in her cries for help chafes my heart. I feel disbelief and shock typing these words: I can now make sense of senseless choices—such as people who step into small, overcrowded boats to ride rough seas to freedom. I understand their risky rides to unimaginable unknowns to escape horrors of inequality, persecution, and war.
The reality is that this woman will not get a US visa. And if by a miracle she did, the welcome to America would not be warm.
I asked her, “Have you heard of Donald Trump?”
Nor does she know of campaign talk and rising fears about terrorism in some Americans.
But fear of foreigners isn’t new.
World War II “prompted the largest displacement of humans in the world has ever seen—although today’s refugee crisis is starting to approach its unprecedented scale…” The story of a spy or terrorist disguised as a refugee was too scandalous to resist then and today.
As a Floridian, I’m aware of a little history from my state. It breaks my heart that in 1939, the ship St. Louis carrying 937 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime was turned away from the port of Miami, Florida, forcing the ship to return to Europe. “Government officials from the State Department to the FBI to President Franklin Roosevelt himself argued that refugees posed a serious threat to national security” (The U.S. Government Turned Away Thousands of Jewish Refugees, Fearing That They Were Nazi Spies,” Smithsonian.com).
So, this woman will probably stay in Pakistan.
While knowing about her unmet basic needs and fears for her life, it feels unkind to suggest that she still gets to choose how she will respond to her life in Pakistan. It’s the underlying message in the work of Viktor Frankl and Virginia Satir and Carl Rogers, and the basis for Wonder Anew.
She gets to choose how she will respond to her life in Pakistan.
How does a thought like that rise and take hold in one’s heart?
I don’t know. But I wish this for her.