Tuesday, May 29, 2018
The Courage of a Stranger
I certainly hadn't planned on this being Refugee/Asylum-Seeker/Immigrant week but it is turning out that way. We've all seen it by now, the remarkable video of a passerby scaling an apartment building in Paris to rescue a toddler dangling from a fifth floor balcony as onlookers shout support. It turns out that this hero who has been dubbed Spiderman of Arondissement 18 is an undocumented immigrant who left war-torn Mali for France, where his brother is a long-term resident.
The next day French President Emmanuel Macron met with 22-year-old Mamoudou Gassama to thank him personally. He received a medal for bravery, immediate French citizenship, and an opportunity for work. The day before Gassama woke up in a hostel for immigrants. Now millions have seen his courageous response in a crisis.
It occurred to me that if not for this spontaneous act Gassama may have languished in the immigration system for years. Actually, Macron has instituted tougher laws for immigrants in light of a number of terrorist incidents but insists that the Gassama situation is not a contradiction. And in the United States he might be deported despite his heroism.
Every day immigrants and asylum-seekers are bravely attempting to make new lives for themselves in cultures very different from those they left, and often without language skills. They are rarely celebrated for their courage, but they deserve our respect.
Gossama thanked God that he was able to save the child. It might interest you to know that he is a Muslim because Islam is usually only mentioned when the person of interest is a terrorist. We can remember that God is the source of compassion and welcomes the stranger.