January 14 – May 31, 2019
“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” --Reinhold Niebuhr
We can’t change what has happened in past, but we can learn from our past to change the future. I had a wonderful experience at the Border Friendship Tour. By hearing some of the familiar stories, this experience brought back some of my old memories as well. I want to share some of my personal background that has shaped my perception toward the border and immigration.
|Looking through the fence into Mexico. Photo by Paw Say Ku.|
My family came from Burma, but I grew up in a Thai Refugee Camp due to the Burmese military dictatorship. The military fired at and attacked our village, and we had no choice but to leave everything behind. I stayed in the camp (surrounded by wire) for almost 13 years. Moreover, when we arrived at the border, I felt a connection to the other side of the wire/line that separated us from the others. I recognized what it was like to live behind the wire. I could relate so much when hearing the stories of why people had to leave their hometowns without having many choices.
Sometimes we might draw conclusions with a lack of knowledge of the real truth from the people we consider strangers or undocumented. They are God's children just like us. Most of the time, we misunderstand the reasons why people risked their lives and souls to cross the border. People come to the U.S not only to seek job opportunities but also to escape violence, threats, and oppression from their hometowns. Many women, men, children, and youth suffered (from rape, assault, human trafficking, violence, and more) while trying to seek a better future for their children or reunite with family. In addition, my heart was breaking and tears started to come down while hearing the stories of unaccompanied minors who had struggled with violence, death, and uncertain futures while finding a place that they could call a Real Home or a place where they could feel safe.
|El Paso, TX/Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Photo by Paw Say Ku.|
Moreover, on the brighter side of the trip, it was very interesting to hear the stories and to see the reality of how ourpolicies are affecting others. At the same time, once knowing the true facts, how do we start "loving our neighbors as we love ourselves"? People who are undocumented or people who are on the other side of the line, they are human beings just like you and me. They want to live in peace, work, support their families, send their children to school, and dream about better futures just like you and I do. How do we break away from stereotyping the ‘Illegal Immigrants’? I believe that we all can make a difference because we are here on Earth for a reason. We can start that change within our own hearts by being more open-minded and learning to hear other sides of the story. Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
This journey has made an impact in me. I am very thankful to have been a part of the group, and I appreciate the people who made this trip happen. Because of this trip, I became more aware of the realities of people who are undocumented and the struggles that they have gone through. I learned that educating and sharing our knowledge is a way to transform ourselves, and we must work together to make the change. We might not be able to change the past events or things that we have done wrong to others, but one thing that we could do is to take a step toward making that change of becoming neighbors and friends. Let us learn from our past and look forward to the future.