'In my ideal world, refugees do not exist'

Geplaatst op 28 maart 2016 10:53
Categorie Dialoog

I was invited to guide a dialogue between refugees and neighbours in Utrecht on the striking question 'Do you dare to connect?' Beforehand I had no idea what to expect - there are some pretty fierce perspectives on refugees in our country nowadays - but as I entered the library in Kanaleneilend and met the participants that had gathered, I felt sure this was gonna be a valuable meeting.

A dialogue takes place in a small setting - we were 8 participants - and consists of four rounds: meeting, sharing experiences, dreaming and doing. Characteristics of the dialogue are expressed by words as discovery, curiosity, listening, postponing your judgement and learning more from the other perspective. Here are some wonderful quotes I remember.

Connection makes your world bigger. There are several examples of (elder) people who were abstinent towards refugees untill they personally met - because daughter brought them over for dinner - then something changed, people got to know each other and exchanged their history. One man from Eritrea who studied in the Netherlands many years ago confirms this: 'Every international student was connected to a host family. In the weekend we had diner together and made little trips. That's good: You don't feel alone and you can study without stress.' The contacts with the family were maintained long after he finished his studies. This man was sure he would want to go to the Netherlands if he would be forced to leave his country.

The dialogue depicted some stimulating conditions for connecting.
(1) Curiosity for the unknown helps to connect.
(2) Trust and confidence also help. We all have these little voices in the head that warn us for potential danger but should we always act according to them? Often they speak of fear or firm standards and sometimes we just better act from trust and confidence.
(3) Open your heart; lightness and laughter can enter even the toughest case if you open your heart.
(4) Stability and peace stimulate connection. One man from Syria told about a group of volunteers who executed all kind of services in his country: first aid, cleaning streets, planting trees and seeds; the group consisted of 25 - 30 people and along the way they became good friends. This man would love to establish a group like that in Utrecht, but some stability is needed.
(5) You need to share something to connect. A Syrian student told us he skyped with his best friend who was now living in Thailand. He noticed there was less to share every week because they both lived in such different worlds.

My favourite part is the dreaming. What would your world look like if there were no restictions? Here are some answers:
- We adress each other with curiosity and then we'll lose our fear.
- We think in possibilities instead of rules and systems. We walk two steps and see what happens; we dare to take risks and adapt our path as needed.
- The Netherlands will realise the supermix of natives and non-natives and so be an example for the whole world.
It stroke me that the refugees considered The Netherlands a very friendly and open country. It made me realise that agressive feelings towards refugees (or refugee policy) is our problem, not theirs.

A young English teacher - a very bright and caring person - found it hard to dream about an ideal world; she was a little sceptic about the possibilities. I asked her to think further and she paused for a while. After a few minutes she came back and said: 'In my ideal world, refugees do not exist; we are just humans in the world.' Her neighbour added: 'Money and people are travellling free over the world, without boundaries.' And the student said: 'And we are friendly; we will at least be friendly.'

In these times of big social debates on refugees and boundaries, participating in this dialogue was an enriching experience for me. For the first time I spoke with refugees instead of talking about them. And I realised anew the bottom line of every social case: we are all human, we have to deal with different perspectives but in the end there's far more that unites us than that seperates us. I heart the dialogue.

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Do you dare to connect?

Ideal world

No boundaries


The other perspective

Utrecht in Dialoog†

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