But I can have an open mind to learning about their experiences and I can choose how I treat such people if they are ever granted safety in our nation.
One of the major challenges facing the world today is protecting refugees who have been forced to leave their homes by armed conflict and human rights abuses.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there were over 10 million refugees worldwide, at the beginning of 2011. As a member of the international community, Australia shares responsibility for protecting these refugees and resolving refugee situations. In 2010–11 a total of 13,799 visas were granted under the Humanitarian Program out of a total of 54 396 (www.immi.gov.au). Australia has recently committed to raise the number of annual visas they grant under this program to 20 000 (smh.com.au).
The demand for these types of visas is high, the process takes years and many will be unsuccessful. After initially escaping war and death, the road ahead for millions of refugees is unthinkable.
My Community in south east Melbourne
I live in a community which settles one in every twelve refugees (southernhealth.org.au). Currently there are over 20 000 refugees living across south east Melbourne. I only need to walk out my front door and I will more than likely come across a Sudanese or Somali refugee. For refugees the experience in relocating to Australia is filled with hope of a new life, but the new life awaiting is not an easy one.
Prior to their arrival here many have been through torture and extremely inhumane treatment in refugee camps throughout the world. They arrive in Australia leaving behind the fear and persecution, but the road to settle in a foreign nation is a long one, especially given the fact that no one can erase the memories and experiences they carry.
I choose to see the refugees in our community as people. People who have not had the safety and security I have experienced my whole life. They deserve support and they deserve to be given the opportunity to stand on their own two feet to reach their potential.
I'll never understand - I can listen, a friend, care
Refugees often have little idea about where they are going. They are running away, not running to. Those who come to Australia often have scant understanding about our country and the nature of society here. They have had no opportunity to prepare themselves physically or psychologically for their new life in Australia (salvationarmy.org.au)
Throughout Scripture, God places a high priority on refugees, sojourners, widows and orphansâ€"essentially anyone without a home has a special place in His plan. In the Bible it says in Exodus 22 verse 21, "you must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt."
His care for them runs so deep. "The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow" (Psalm 146 verse 9).
Those who are in this community are here for a reason and I choose to see them as God sees them and to see the hurt and pain in their eyes as being very real.
I will never understand but I can listen, I can be a friend, I can care.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html