OP-ED BY RYA WALFORD
We made a promise. We promised to love our brothers and sisters no matter where they are. We promised to never let another family be torn apart by discrimination. We promised to never let another innocent person suffer at the hands of an unfair government.
We broke our promise.
Instead of standing up for those who can’t stand for themselves we look the other way. We talk about how sad it is when we see a picture of a dead boy on the beach but that moment passes and we carry on like there is nothing wrong with the world. While our brothers and sisters fight for their lives, we look the other way because “it’s not our problem.”
But we are wrong. Our generation is wrong.
Why can’t we see what is happening? Why are we letting history repeat itself?
When U.S President Donald Trump made the executive decision to ban Muslims from seven countries, including refugees of war-torn Syria, on Friday it stuck a nerve in families around the world.
Especially in the families whose pasts are reflected in this decision. Families like mine.
I remember listening to my great-grandfather tell us stories of the Holocaust when I was a child. I recall the fear in his eyes and the way his voice would shake when we asked about the numbers on his arm. I remember being sad for him but never understanding what it truly meant.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized why his hands trembled and his eyes filled every time he spoke. Now I see it. Now I feel the fear he must have felt when he had to register as a Jew. The fear he must have felt being herded to a camp. The fear he felt watching his mother, father and sister being murdered for believing something different than his government did.
I feel that fear now for the families trying to flee, trying to find safety, trying to live.
When Trump put the ban on Muslims entering the U.S he broke the promise we made so many years ago.
He has instilled a fear in me I have only ever heard of. One I never thought would be possible to feel again. But here we are.
With a man whose excellent manipulation and talent for spreading hate has left the world in pieces.
We are letting one man strip away the rights every person is entitled to. We are letting him tear apart those innocent families. We are letting him throw aside those innocent peoples lives.
Canadians may have not given him that power but we can help to take it away.
McGill law students and recent graduates set-up in a Montreal airport early Monday morning to offer their services to a University of Quebec student and
Iranian citizen across the border as well as
anyone else unable to board due to the ban.
Students are planning panels, protests, vigils and legal clinics. The opportunities are limitless.
I am not a Muslim. I have not experienced the hatred they face or the fear they carry in their hearts. But I have seen what it is doing to this community.
My boyfriend is a young Muslim man in whom I see kindness, creativity, laughter and love. I see his father, a man who escaped genocide to bring his family to a safer and brighter future. I see his mother, working harder than anyone I know to provide a happy life for her children. I see these people let their hearts direct their actions, not their faith.
But now I also see their fear. I see their heartbreak and worry for those who were not so lucky to make it out. I see them wondering what will happen to their Muslim brothers and sisters around the world.
These are the people we are failing.
Donald Trump wants people to believe in the hate and terror he is preaching. He wants people to be afraid of people who are different.
We cannot let him win. We can not let this hate run its course.
Our generation has to open their eyes to the world around them. This generation can stop history from repeating itself.
It seems like an awful burden, I know. It may even seem like too much to carry. In fact, you are probably saying to yourself, “how can I stop something so big, I am just one person.” But when we stand together, hand-in-hand we are not just one person. We become a voice and a power that is bigger and stronger than the ones we have been listening to all this time.
Through this fear, we must spread love and light. We must remember the past. We must stand up for what is right. We must put their lives before our own.
We must keep our promise.