Dark days in Sweden…and trying to be thankful

Dark days in Sweden…and trying to be thankful

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Sweden’s deputy prime minister and prime minister announcing Sweden can no longer handle the stream of asylum seekers.

Yesterday was a sad day in Sweden. Our prime minister, Stefan Löfven, announced that we could no longer handle the number of refugees who’ve come seeking asylum. As the announcement was made, our deputy prime minister was in tears. On the other side of the political spectrum, the far-right party, Sveriges Demokraterna (who are not very democratic, considering its connection with neo-Nazis) celebrated the news as though they were celebrating New Year’s Eve.

I shouldn’t be surprised. They have no love for anyone who is not Swedish–and by Swedish, they don’t simply mean Swedish citizenship. If you are not white, if you cannot prove you are an über-Swede, then they have no use for you. They claim they don’t hate immigrants, but all they do is demonise immigrants and claim we are the root of all Sweden’s evils.

Today is a day when I should be thankful. And, in many ways, I am. I have a roof over my head. I have a job. I am loved. I don’t have to worry about where I will sleep at night. Everyday when I am on my way to work, I pass by homeless people selling Situation Stockholm, EU migrants from Romania who are trying to find work or get money to send home… Stockholm keeps rolling. People keep streaming into department stores buying things they don’t really need, stressing over Christmas presents or whether their smart phone is the smartest of them all. Some give their time and energy to help charities. Others devote their spare time to how they look or who they know. And me? I write. It gets me through the dark winter months.

But right now, I find myself thinking about the people who need help and wonder why I am so lucky.

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Refugees arriving in Sweden at Hyllie station. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

The stream of people fleeing war, searching for a safe haven, are not the enemy. People like the men and women in Sveriges Demokraterna or the people who cheer on Donald Trump would have us think that the asylum seekers are terrorists or that they want to take everything from us. I refuse to believe they want to take anything from us. I am sure there are people who think I am naive.

The Donald Trumps of the world would say I am part of the problem because I empathize.

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My colleague, Åsa, who is one of the selfless volunteers helping refugees arriving in Europe.

But I know that–if I were in the same shoes as the asylum seekers, if I were fleeing war, I would want to come to a country like Sweden or Denmark or Germany or…*anywhere* where I could feel safe and hope that I could find shelter.

So I keep telling myself that–in spite of what the politicians say–there are still good people in this world who will keep doing everything they can to help–people like my friend and colleague Åsa Swee who volunteers her time at Stockholms Stadsmission and who’s gone to Greece and helped refugees arriving on European shores. I am thankful that people like her are shining a light even on these dark days. I am glad there are people like her who never give up hope and who keep doing what they can to help others–even when the darkness of far-right anti-immigrant rhetoric threatens all the places that should be safe havens.

I know we cannot help everyone, but we can at least try.

 

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