My parents are both from Canada, but I was born in Japan because my parents were working there. I lived in japan for the first 10 years of my life. Even though my parents were originally from Canada, the transition back was tough. When we moved back to Canada, it was a return to a previous country for them, but for me it was a foreign nation because I had lived my whole life in Japan. I came to Canada in grade six, and I noticed that the popular culture, TV shows and societal conventions were completely different. Often, I had no idea what other kids are talking about. Even though I spoke perfect English, it took me several years to feel like I’m really at home.
I was born in a different country like many of us here today, but when I go pass the American border I do not even get half a question or a slight suspicion that other citizens receive because of the way they look. I am here today to demonstrate that we are one. Of course we are all different in our own ways, but we all deserve to be treated equally, fairly, and with kindness. Particularly, I’m here today because I’m one of the Minsters of United Church, and our church has a very good friendship with the Muslim association. We are here to support our Muslim friends, to be in solidarity with them and to stand with them in demonstrating peacefully for the unfairness and inhumanity of the rules that the new administration in the USA is trying to enact. I’m still shocked and mystified about how Trump’s presidency even happened in the first place. I am aware that there is a deep division particularly in the USA, and in less obvious ways in Canadian society too. I believe that we need to be intentional when working to bridge the gaps and differences between people. Trump’s presidency is an opportunity for us to re-examine ourselves. Not too long ago, in this area in Vancouver, Canadians enacted the same kind of racist bans on hundreds of people from China and India, and I see a direct parallel between what the USA administration is doing now and what Canada did not that long ago.
The force of fear, hatred, and ignorance that led to the ugly incident in our history is still here and is playing a part in what is happening now. Thus, we need to work hard together to meet the challenge and to struggle against it. The travel ban on Muslims is absolutely appalling, inhumane, and unconstitutional. It goes against everything I know about the political and human tradition of the USA as well as Canada. I hope it will get lifted, but more importantly, I hope we can keep struggling against the racist idea and the tremendous ignorance that it stemmed from. Ignorance has led people to think that banning people from a particular race, religion or country would make them safer, but it’s exactly the opposite. When we exclude people, when we take away their voices and their rights, we actually create more hatred and harm and jeopardize our society even more.
The stories of our church and the Muslim community in South Surrey is a great example of a very simple act that helped to create a harmonious society. In response to the Paris attack and the rise of Islamophobia last year, our church decided to get to know our Muslim friends better by inviting them to our church to help us learn more about Islam or their culture. They came gladly and lots of people from the community came. That was the beginning of a friendly relationship. Now our church and the Muslim association has sponsored a refugee family from Syria. We have become good friends with them; we’ve ate lots of meals together and gathered together in various events. It’s not just about having a nice acquiescence, it’s about making a real friendship. That is my vision for our future society. I hope we will work harder at bridging the gaps of race, religion, and sexual orientation and gender identity in order to really celebrate our diverse and beautiful human race together.