The New Refugees Scare Me Too

[This is another post lightly adapted from one originally written for my blog, “On Second Thought,” offered on the website for “Context with Lorna Dueck.”]

I want to confess two things right up front about the Syrian refugees coming to Canada. I admire the people who are bringing them and caring for them, whether politicians, social service workers, churches, and other community groups. And at the same time I’m afraid of what all these newcomers might mean for Canada’s future.

I’ve seen the photos and the video clips of anguish, fear, and desperation. I’ve seen the awful camps. I’ve seen the devastated cities and towns. Of course I want the victims of Syria’s agony to have homes, schools, jobs, and security.

But I’ve also seen the riots in the banlieues of Paris. I’ve read about sexual assaults, vicious gangs, and suicide bombings in the very capitals of Europe originating out of immigrant populations violently alienated from their new countries. Of course I don’t want us to import more trouble than we can handle.

The refugee problem today is as bad as it has ever been. Most refugees do not speak adequate French or English. Most do not come from similar (= modern Western) cultural backgrounds. Most are not Christians and many in fact come from societies that have taught them to see Christians as rivals, if not enemies.

As the “Context with Lorna Dueck” program on this subject made clear, however, we also are better equipped to deal well with these challenges than we have ever been. We have rich and successful experience with refugees as diverse as Armenians and Vietnamese, and it is people from these communities who give us shining examples of “paying it forward” to care for those who now need a refuge.

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The #1 Sign of a Doomed Relationship

[This is another of my posts in my “On Second Thought” blog for “Context with Lorna Dueck”]

On Valentine’s Day we celebrate romantic love—or we mourn its absence from our lives.

Some of us, however, live tensely in between: in a love relationship, yes, but one we fear is fading…or curdling into something awful.

Prof. John Gottman of the University of Washington built a predictive model of marriage success and failure partly on the work of Prof. Paul Ekman, the psychologist famous for analyzing “microexpressions,” those fleeting, almost invisible, indicators of how we are truly feeling.

Gottman and his team filmed couples, together and separate, and followed the paths of their relationships. Among the top four predictors of failure were what you’d expect: stonewalling and defensiveness—lack of connective communication.

The other two, however, were much more grim: criticism and contempt.

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Power vs. THE Power

Just a quick thought as I sit in the Moncton Airport waiting to fly west.

New Brunswick is Canada’s only officially bilingual province. Folks here take both languages (and, indeed, both cultures) pretty seriously, practicing a policy I’d never heard of before: “duality.” That means two health care systems, two school systems, etc., etc.

There is much to both praise and blame in this outlook, but I’m glad quite frequently as I sojourn here that it makes me think about French, a language I know very badly but love. (I certainly encounter it a lot more than when I return to British Columbia…soon to be Canada’s second bilingual province, except featuring English and Mandarin.)

Anyhow, an advertisement caught my eye today in the departures lounge. On behalf of a charity working with impoverished women in Africa, the sign shows a tribal woman looking at the camera over the slogan, “I am powerful.”

Amen to that. So many women around the world, given even just a little education and economic opportunity, have become so much more powerful than they were before.

But the French parallel struck me hard: “J’ai le pouvoir.” The phrase can mean, of course, simply “I have power.” But taking the article (“le”) literally, it means, “I have THE power.”

As a Christian, I think I have become acquainted personally with The Power. And what a difference there is between “I am powerful” (to whatever extent I enjoy power) and “I have The Power”—the Holy Spirit of God.

So by all means let’s support charities that empower women (and men) with education, financing, justice, and all that they lack.

But, old-fashioned Christian that I am, I’m also glad for those that bring the Good News to such people, as someone brought it to me, that we each and all can truly have The Power.