Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Face to Face

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known..." (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Today I met a Sudanese refugee and her six year old son. Smiling, she told me her story in broken English. She came to Lancaster about two years ago, and now plans to apply for citizenship in three years. She was from a city about four hours south of Khartoum. "Is that now in South Sudan?" I asked her. No no, she told me, even four hours south of Khartoum is still far from South Sudan. I had kind of guessed that, since she spoke Arabic to her son (a characteristic of the more Arabized north versus the African dialects in the south). With the language barrier and having just met her, I didn't get to ask the full details of her escape from Sudan. But somehow, finally meeting a real-life refugee made things more real to me. Refugees are actual, regular people: normal humans who laugh, cry, eat chips with homemade salsa, and forget the English word for "south". 

The quote at the top of this post is from a chapter in the Bible I read this morning. Little did I know how much it would frame my meeting with this refugee. After weeks of sitting and learning in class, us students do "know in part". This is like seeing something in a dirty mirror, dimly...but when we see the face of human rights face to face, we shall know fully. Something will leap out past our intellect, and lodge deep into our hearts. And that is how it should be. 

2 comments:

arabianknight said...

Very touching post Andrew! I have been doing a lot of independent research with my partner on Sudan and the atrocities that have happened in Darfur and other regions of the country. The situation there is devastating, but like you have stated, we can only imagine what it must be like. Only the people living in Sudan actually understand the full experience. The family you write about and other asylum seekers have lived these experiences and we only get a glimpse into their hardships through personal contact. It's hard to imagine that these are people just like us: with hands, fingers, and teeth; just a little unfortunate.

Anne said...

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all had an incredible opportunity like the one in your post? This class really is an incredible, eye-opening experience that gives us this privileged chance to wipe the dirt away from our dimly lit mirror. These people we meet face to face become so much more than a picture on a passport, a statistic, an article in Ladies Home Journal, or a protagonist in a novel. Meeting my client gave phenomenological weight to all the words I had read in the beginning of the semester; it's really powerful.