When Accompaniment Becomes Brotherhood

Sunday, December 21st, 2014
JRS staff listening to Asylum Seekers telling their life story

JRS staff listening to Asylum Seekers telling their life story

“No, full, Sir, thank you …” he said with a moving his hand onto his stomach when I offered lunch. His face looks sad but there was a line of hope in a smile. Two nights before we met in Cisarua market, Fuadi had contacted me and told about his condition. Seeing him now made me feel relieved and calm. It was because some time ago, he was severely depressed, just quiet when spoken to, and dazed.

Who would have thought a professional photographer with expertise in Photoshop software must not struggle to survive in Cisarua, Bogor. Who would have thought the father who cared for three young school girls would become severely depressed over the lack of money and right to work in Indonesia depending on the kindheartedness of a market stall owner offering him shelter, food and drink. It is hard to imagine the turn that Fuadi’s life has taken leaving his world spinning rapidly, what stays is the memory of his family or taking pictures of weddings in Quetta. The reality now is to survive in Indonesia to obtain refugee status from UNHCR. “In Pakistan, before, my life is good. But, now, …” Fuadi can only take a deep breath.

After his family could not send any more money to him he tried to find a job in Cisarua to buy food. The result, nihil, no one was willing to accept and give him a job. “I ask a photo studio but they have no work. I ask the photocopy shop, no work. I know Photoshop. I can operate a photocopy machine … ” said Fuadi. Now, he helps at one of the market stalls in return he is allowed to sleep in the store as long as he does not invite others. He gets food and drink from the owner of the kiosk as a reward for his help. “Now, I am happy. I am occupied! “Said Fuadi with a bright face and sparkling eyes.

My encounters with Fuadi are moments of companionship which I treasure. Being present as fellow human being and accompanying refugees in Indonesia teach me much about brotherhood through companionship.

I felt happiness when Fuadi started contacting me by phone; even if it was only to complain and tell me about his difficulties to sleep, it was a sign. Being present for people in their worst moments can fill the heart with empathy and love, and gives time to reflect upon human values. Now sharing stories and even laughing with Fuadi eases my mind. Enjoying the sharing of memories and experiences we became brothers, despite our different origins, no blood relationship, different religion, ethnicity or political opinion. Companionship, fraternity, the sharing of sadness and happiness charges our lives and lets us experience and live accompaniment when being with asylum seekers in their dark and bright moments. The Moment of Dawn adapted by Paulo Coelho expresses my hope for all of us in approaching others, especially asylum seekers.

A teacher gathered together his students and asked them: “How do we know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?” “It’s when, standing some way away, you can tell a sheep from a dog,” said one boy. The teacher was not content with the answer. Another student said: “No, it’s when, standing some way away, you can tell an olive tree from a fig tree.” “No, that’s not a good definition either.” “Well, what’s the right answer?” asked the boys. And the teacher said: “When a stranger approaches, and we think he is our brother, that is the moment when night ends and day begins.”

Pieter Dolle SJ

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