Thursday, June 18, 2009

Freedom from Fear

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.
Aung San Suu Kyi Burmese dissident & politician (1945 - )

In Australia this week we are honouring our refugees, people who have faced often terrible trials in their native countries and with great courage have made the journey to freedom in our country.

This year's Refugee Week theme is Freedom from Fear, and today I visited a photographic exhibition of the same name. It shows the faces and tells the stories of 10 people who have made Australia their home after being forced to flee their own countries.

It is a moving and inspiring exhibition. I stood for a long time before a picture of a serene faced elderly woman. She had endured house arrests and beatings on the soles of her feet which almost crippled her, because the authorities thought she had spoken out against them. She also bore first of 12 children to her husband at the age of 15. She has written poetry all her life.

She is so happy to be free and so grateful to Australia. She described as "wonderful" doing hard labour picking cucumbers and other produce (work most locals won't do) to make money for herself and to send back to sick relatives in Iraq. Once, a man spat at her in the street and said, "We don't need Muslims in this country".

She replied, "It doesn't matter, I love you brother".

She has love written all over her face. Her photo reminded me of photos of another lady when she was in old age - Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

As I stepped back outside into the sunshine I was so grateful to be living in a peaceful society and for the simple freedom I enjoy to more or less shape my own circumstances.

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