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On Wednesday, October 11, 2023, the Chair of the Diocesan Refugee Unit (DRU), Shannon Muir, ODNW, forwarded the following letter to diocesan communications written by the parents of a family sponsored through the Diocese of New Westminster, Abdul Hussein and Gulsoom. It is compelling and beautifully written. The new arrivals from Afghanistan began their lives in Canada, reunited with their elder daughter, August 27, 2022.  They gave permission to Shannon for it to be shared with the diocese and beyond. Editor

As we sit here and pour our hearts onto this page, a flood of memories washes over us, leaving us both overwhelmed and grateful. These memories are the fragments of our journey, some shimmering with the brilliance of cherished moments, while others are shadowed by the weight of things we'd rather forget. It's been a year since we embarked on this life-altering journey, a year of tumultuous emotions, yet one filled with unwavering hope.

Exactly one year ago this month (August of 2022), we set foot on Canadian soil, brimming with excitement and anxiety. We knew this was a path that would lead us to something extraordinary – the chance to provide our children with a life, one we never had ourselves. Every step we took was a promise to make a better life, a promise that would shape the very essence of our existence.

Our journey to Canada was not just about reuniting with our beloved daughter, who had been separated from us for six long years. It was also about reconnecting with a piece of her life that had unfolded in this distant land. The anticipation was electric, like a current running through our veins, as we imagined the place where our daughter had navigated the challenges of her teenage years, all alone.

But as we arrived in Canada, reality hit us like an icy wave. Everything was unfamiliar – no friends who spoke our language, no familiar faces, and an unquenchable yearning for the home we left behind in Afghanistan. The warmth of our home country, its traditions, and the embrace of family and friends were suddenly replaced by a cold, lonely void. The initial days were a maze of confusion, a sea of faces and languages we couldn't comprehend.

We ventured into this unknown world, armed with simple phrases like "Hi" and "How are you?" in English. Our children found companions, but it wasn't without its hardships. The first day of school etched a painful memory in our hearts as our kids were taunted as "Taliban's kids." It was a stark reminder that we were outsiders in a foreign land, a reality that pierced our souls.

Despite the struggles, we persevered. Slowly, we started to feel a sense of belonging. We adapted, not just to the language and culture, but to the resilience that had been dormant within us. In our quest for acceptance, we unearthed the beauty of Canada, its diverse culture, its delectable cuisine, and the kindness of its people.

The journey was never easy, but it was a journey of growth and understanding. It taught us to value the simple joys of communication, to piece together sentences even when we stumbled over words. Our children found not just friends but a sense of belonging, and though the path was fraught with challenges, they emerged stronger.

Yet, amid all the triumphs and tribulations, the shadows of our past lingered. The label "Taliban's kids" was a wound that ran deep, a reminder of the prejudice that lingers in even the most welcoming places. We were asked about our first year in Canada, and how could we put into words the rollercoaster of emotions? We had found freedom, a home, and each other, but there was a part of us that still longed for the life we had left behind.

Back in Afghanistan, we had built a life, a sanctuary of security, and a sense of purpose. But that life was shattered when we saw history repeating itself, regressing to a time when ethnicity and education were reasons to hide from the world. Our escape from Afghanistan 26 years ago had been an arduous journey, and when we returned after the Taliban left in 2002, we never imagined we would be compelled to leave again, to seek safety, education, and freedom from persecution based on our Hazara ethnicity.

The past year served as a stark reminder to the world that war is a scourge that knows no bounds. It can destroy countless lives, leaving emotional scars that may never heal. At the beginning, we clung to the hope of hearing the words, "The war is over; you can come home." But those words never came. Instead, we learned to make Canada our home, a place where our children could thrive without the shadows of discrimination.

In recent months, we've been blessed to encounter incredible souls who have touched our lives in profound ways. They stood by us in our darkest hours, celebrating our joys and sharing our sorrows. Our sponsors, who opened their hearts and homes to us, not only provided support but also imparted valuable lessons about compassion and generosity.

To those who have supported us from afar, your contributions have shifted our perspectives and made us feel truly welcome. We'll never forget the kindness we've received, and we pledge to pay it forward, ensuring that newcomers who follow in our footsteps receive the same warmth and support we've been fortunate to experience.

Our journey has been marked by resilience, love, and the unwavering belief that in the face of adversity, the human spirit can shine. As we reflect on this past year, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the opportunity to start anew, to create a life filled with promise and hope. Our story is a testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit, and we are determined to share that strength with others, to make this world a better place for all who seek refuge and a chance at a better life.


Abdul Hussain and Gulsoom 

iStock 1089929808 Credit: Oleksii Lisknoih