Following the US Executive Order halting refugees and migrants at the end of January, I sent this email to the Chuffed.org Team:
As you all would know, two weekends ago in the US, President Trump issued an executive order to halt all US refugee intake for 120 days, bar Syrian refugees from the US indefinitely and severely restrict travel to the US of citizens (including dual nationals) of seven majority-Muslim countries.
Upon hearing this order and reflecting on its effects, I spent much of that weekend buried under the weight of fear. It wasn't just the act of turning our backs on people in their hour of need that triggered this, or the fact that green card permanent residents were no longer able to return home to their families, but the built in ideology that foreigners, and in particular Muslims, should be judged a threat until proven otherwise.
As a perpetual foreigner, that ideology terrifies me.
The fear that I felt in response to this policy pales in comparison to the fear felt by people fleeing for their lives. It is wrong to arbitrarily deny them the hope that a life in our countries brings, especially after years of vetting, waiting and despair. To then treat them as a threat is undeniably callous.
In the year I was born, race riots ravaged Sri Lanka. People of one race judged another to be a threat and burned them on the streets. That's what happens when a Government implicitly or explicitly sanctions fear of a particular group.
In a more welcoming time, we were lucky to immigrate to Australia, which took pride in its multicultural identity. To be sure, it wasn't perfect; it did debate each wave of migration but it didn't define its national conversation around deciding who they let into the country and the circumstances in which they came.
As an immigrant, that generosity that Australia showed - that idea that I was welcome and not a threat - created a sense of hope. Hope that I would be treated fairly. Hope that people cared about me. Hope that even though we didn't know each other, we were on the same side. Hope as an immigrant is a powerful emotion. It's the thing that gives you the ability to contribute, to integrate, to learn and to create.
Chuffed.org was born out of hope.
The majority of the Chuffed.org team live in a country that they weren't born in. For those who were, everyone has at least one parent that wasn't born in that country. We're a team of immigrants, who work every day to make the countries we call home better for everyone.
As immigrants, we have to ask ourselves, how do we respond to what's happening in the US - with hope or with fear?
It's easy to let fear guide us. It is fear that guides our urge to shout at people who we disagree with. It is fear that guides our desire to flee to the comfort of our social media echo chamber. Fighting fear with fear is momentarily satisfying but that's about it.
The only way to overcome fear in the long term is to consciously create a world of hope for everyone. Especially for our fellow citizens whom we don't see eye-to-eye with. That's why we need to build a community that supports and encourages people who bring hope to the world - particularly to those who need it the most.
The Anne Moon's who bring hope to refugees imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru, the Phili and Rob's who bring hope to the homeless freezing on London's streets, and the Jeanna's who bring hope to the women of Alaska so that their rights will be protected. These amazing people, and thousands more like them, are our architects of hope.
If we can design the world with their plans to guide us, we'll create a fear-proof world, one that can't burn down.
Prashan Paramanathan, CEO Chuffed.org