By Melissa Fleming (FlatIron Books – 2017)
Donald’s suspension of refugee travel to the US from 7 predominantly Muslim countries sparked outrage and protests at airports throughout the country. I attended a large protest at BWI on Sunday evening (Jan. 29) with an estimated crowd of 2,000 people chanting loudly but peacefully against the ban. I met people who had never attended a protest before. One woman told me “It’s time I took a stand!”
The energy was contagious, but despite the large numbers protesting, it’s difficult for most Americans to engage in an issue that feels remote and inconsequential to their lives. Who among us will experience the desperation of fleeing from our homes to find safety in a foreign country with nothing but the clothes on our backs?
This true story of a young Syrian woman, Doaa Al Zamel, who fled Syria with her parents and siblings, will touch your heart.
The author is the chief spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming. She sprinkles some facts and figures about the global refugee crisis, but this isn’t a story about UNHCR or politics or shaming any government for our dismal inaction. This is a love story, and this young woman’s hopes and fears become very real.
You will never listen to another news story about the refugees again without thinking of Doaa.
I was drawn to A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea when I learned that Doaa’s story intersected with my story in Cairo in 2012-2013. I met a young doctor from Syria who was studying German in a language institute in Cairo with the goal of getting a visa to travel to Germany to make a new life. He told me about his life back home where his father was also a doctor. When I met him in January 2013, life was already very difficult in Syria. Today, he’s settled in Germany and I’m thankful that he’s been able to build a new life.
I also met a member of the Free Syrian Army in Cairo and wrote about his story here. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, but I fear the worst, and it saddens my heart.
Most Americans will never experience the dangers of border crossings, the humiliation of interrogation and confinement at the checkpoints, and the fear and desperation that drive refugees to flee their homes. We will certainly not experience four days and four nights in the cold waters of the Mediterranean.
This book comes the closest to opening that profound experience for us, and we owe it to ourselves to read it, and then send the book on to our members of Congress. I’m buying one for each of my two Senators and my Congresswoman.
If you don’t have time, or you’re not a reader (like our Donald apparently), then here’s a short TedTalk by the author. It will give you a taste for the book, but it’s not a substitute for opening the pages.