Thursday, October 06, 2016
Praying for a Happier Ending
Wednesday evening we went to see the film Dheepan, winner of the Palme D'or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. It is about a fighter in the Tamil Tigers rebel group in Sri Lanka named Dheepan who flees the country after the Tigers are defeated. His wife and children were killed in the conflict but he teams up with a woman who is a total stranger and the child she has taken on to be more attractive for immigration approval as a family.
They end up in France, in a run-down tenement complex full of refugees and immigrants from around the world. Some of them are simply trying to get by while others have become involved in gangs and illegal activities. Its not enough that they must contend with the challenges of culture and language barriers. Nor that they are total strangers who have all experienced deep losses yet are attempting to keep up the pretense of being a family. And after fleeing violence they live in the midst of more, and must make choices for survival.
This is both a harrowing and moving story, and we were so glad we saw it, in part because it is a worthwhile film but also because of what we are living with our Syrian refugee sponsorships through our coalition of faith communities. Next week the family we welcomed last December will be joined by a grandmother and a sibling family of five. We anticipate another twelve relatives in three households.
As with the nine-year-old girl in Dheepan, conflict and life in a camp has made education impossible for these children, and we really have no idea of the burdens of loss experienced by the adults or the kids.
A recent poll of Canadians discovered that many of us figure refugees should "fit in" quicker and adopt our values. How would we do if we were plunked in an unfamiliar culture after living through trauma and privation? How is that speedy integration possible when there are so many barriers to doing so?
We are excited about the arrival of these Syrian relatives and will do our best to make them feel welcome. It's important that we pray for their transition and are determined to do whatever practically possible to begin a meaningful life in Canada.
In Dheepan the family of necessity gradually becomes a family of the heart. A late venture into action-film violence near the end seems excessive, but the story is still affecting. There are glimpses of a happier ending after the moments of despair. We ask God for the same in our real-life situation.