Friday, August 19, 2016

Let Children Be Children!

In July, I visited Melilla, an autonomous Spanish city in Northern Africa by Moroccan border as part of my professional work. We were there facilitate training to better prepare their local people on how to provide appropriate psychosocial support to migrant and refugee children in Melilla. Almost all of the incoming children see Melilla as a stepping stone to move on to Europe. However, in most cases, these children are held in Melilla with little to no resources in the name of ‘protection’.

I saw children stuck in Melilla not only physically but also psychologically and socially. These children leave their homes, their mothers and fathers, their friends, the world they grew in and the good and the bad of it to go to Europe, their dream destination. They come from various countries: Morocco, Mali, Algeria and Syria. They leave their place because they are too tired of the suffering back home or they are pulled by the dream of availing themselves of the opportunities that are available in the rest of the world. But the rest of the world doesn’t always understand them, it mixes its own fears and agendas to their innocent dreams and aspirations. The local administration is trying to do what they can according to what they think is right. They have devised a protection system for these children. The children are trapped in places like Melilla, where ‘protection’ takes the form of iron bars around their lives and plans for future.

The children are not accepted for who they are: values, thoughts, dreams and aspirations. They are forced to become what the new destination wants them to be as soon as they arrive. Local systems are forced on them without explanation or care. If they happen to fall out of it, they are branded as ‘anti-socials’ or ‘bad’ without any delay. They are perceived as criminals, not only by the law and order personnel, but also by other citizens in the receiving society.

We witnessed, a restaurant waiter hit one of the children because he was begging for food. But what would a child do when he is forced to live in a center with a capacity of 180 but is holding 320+ children at any given time? We met with a few workers in these centers, they too are burned out. Anybody would run away, especially the one who is already on the run from misery and suffering. They didn’t give up everything they had to succumb to more suffering. And when they leave the centers and try to fend for themselves, they are not allowed to work by the law, not even for a couple of hours. Please note, many of these children are between 16-18 years.

My perception was that the so called protection system is not in place to protect the best interest of the child but to protect Melilla from these children. On the contrary, if the system would genuinely protect the well-being of children, they will not be considered a threat to the society. If their resilience is acknowledged and enhanced, they can actually contribute positively to the society if given an opportunity.

All we need to do is listen to these children with empathy and device programs and activities that fall within the local laws but also synchronize with their dreams and aspirations. All the relevant actors from law and order departments, civil society organizations and other non-governmental organizations must collaborate to prepare these children to embark on a journey that is positive for them as well as for the communities they will become part of in Europe. Below is my humble request to the adults of Melilla and other receiving cities where children are held against their wishes with meager resources just to control their movement:

Let the children travel on the sun rays,

Let them sail on the waters,

Let them fly with the wind,

Let them ride on the clouds,

Let them glide along the birds,

Let them explore the sand.

Let children be children,

Let no boundaries limit their aspirations,

Let no laws crush their dreams,

Let no differences demean their dignity,

Let no barrier hinder their path,

Let no fear cut their wings.


Children are born to play and explore,

Let them chase their desires,

Let them break the walls,

Let them question the rules,

Let them infect us with their innocence,

Let them fall and rise again.


Let us behave like adults,

Let us protect them and their dreams,

Let us listen to their deepest feelings,

Let us provide a safe space for them to express,

Let us support them in their vulnerable moments,

Let us extend our hand when they fall,

Let us nurture their childhood,

Let us let them be children!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stop in the name of Allah, the most merciful!


This is a poetic petition to the youth around the world who is picking up guns in the name of God and is giving up their own lives to fulfill the agenda of those who sit in their safe sanctuaries. These young lives belong to a variety of backgrounds and they are being misled in the name of Allah, the most merciful. It is absolutely unacceptable! The internet is full of information on this recruitment process and the consequences. Here's one news story:http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/19/middleeast/isis-child-soldiers/.

 
People have picked up arms in almost all religions including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and even Buddhism. However, never before young lives were targeted the way they are now. There is an entire recruiting machinery that is out there recruiting them to kill, to be wives of terrorists (who many times end up being sexually exploited) and recruit others using various ways including the social media. In addition, it is not only the extremism that is enticing them to join ISIS but the unfortunate ‘Islamophobia’, particularly in the west, pushes them to the sidelines. It makes things even more complicated. I also recognize that religious extremism is not the only cause that drives our youth to abuse and exploitation. However, this particular poem comes from the accumulation of pain that arose every time I heard a young life was sacrificed for religious extremism in the last couple of years. I do want to emphasize on one thing though that most of these young people are not devoted Muslim people, on the contrary either they are new converts or do not believe at all. So at the end of the day, none of this is really about Islam, this is way beyond one religion and includes actions, behaviors and ideologies of people from different backgrounds and religious groups.

 
We cannot eliminate this horrible movement by labeling these young lives as terrorists and bombing them. We must bring our children back with compassion. It is both our right and duty to tell them the truth using many ways and many times. It is said that God is love and there is nothing we can do to reduce His love, mercy and grace for us. It is equally true for all the people that have gone astray in the name of extremism and I urge them to come back in the name of Allah.


Stop, my brother and sister,

Stop because you’re too precious.

Look, there is more and better,

All blessings of The Most Gracious!


Yes, killing the infidel

might be an order,

But the same source says,

Forgiveness is better!


Agreed, it is not easy forgive those

who have caused us the pain,

But it is possible,

If one changes the thought lane


There are little joys around,

The smiles of our dear ones,

The prayers and wishes of elders,

Are all His divine inspirations


Choose to bless others,

Choose life over death,

Choose to spread His love,

Not to promulgate human wrath.


Allah made us all with great care,

And His actions are never erroneous,

Choose to nurture His creation,

Chose to support his loving plans.


If He so desires today,

To bring a people to destruction,

He is able to do it on His own,

He doesn’t need to rely on extremism


If He wanted everyone to be alike,

To think in a uniform fashion,

He could’ve done exactly that,

And instilled in us an identical passion


But He made us different,

He diversified our choices,

He gave us the power to think,

He empowered our voices.


It’s not over yet,

You still have a chance,

A chance to live and prosper,

On earth, see paradise at a glance!


He still wants you to be like Him,

His purpose for you is not defeated,

For the well-being of His creation

You are very much needed.


Help the non-believer to believe

To see the hand of the most high,

To the most merciful and most gracious,

I urge you, my dear, become an ally!

 

O India, My Motherland!

A plea of a migrant to her motherland:   O India, my motherland, My identity and my pride! My soul seeks nourishment, Only you...