I've been reluctant to comment on the arrival of a ship full of Tamil migrants to Canada for a few reasons. Often people expect me to have strong pro-Tamil views, as both my parents are Tamils from Sri Lanka. However, since I was raised in Canada, I actually relate more to being Canadian than being Tamil. And after claiming the body of Christ as my heritage, I try not to have a preference for one ethnic group over another, simply because that's the group my family comes from.
That being said, I do think that the arrival of this ship is a test of Canadian hospitality. Canadian Tamils have flocked to B.C. to provide translation services, food, and financial support for the hundreds of men, women, and children who disembarked the ship. They've shown the embracing spirit that other Canadians claim to value. But for all the talk Canadians put out about equality, the strongly racist standoffishness generated by Canadian media about the arrivals has shocked me.
I don't care if these arrivals are from Sri Lanka or Sudan, nobody brings children through cramped quarters halfway across the world escaping a civil war, on a joyride. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for those parents? One kid starts a temper tantrum, and the whole ship has to listen to it. Another kid throws up, and soon half the cabin is retching. It's not easy. It's not like they just hopped on board on a whim. Sri Lanka's war has been marked with atrocities on both sides; mass murders and child soldiers have been vying with media repression and racist tensions for making it a bad place to live. I'm not saying that accepting them all in without any concerns whatsoever is a good idea - but I'm saying that we should be accepting them in even with the knowledge that it may be difficult for us. Hospitality isn't about minimizing inconvenience - it's about reaching out in love to fellow human beings regardless of ethnicity.
So I am speaking up - not because my family is Tamil, but because I am Christian. Canadian media should be ashamed of itself for propagating fears about terrorism - that's so yesterday. We are no longer living in a culture of fear, and trying to stir it up again will not work. As a Canadian citizen, I refuse to be part of it. Instead, I commend those who have worked tirelessly to care for the new arrivals - the volunteers, health care workers, social workers, police, and lawyers who are choosing to provide care to these fellow human beings in need. Theirs are the stories that should be splayed across the headlines.