The Privilege of Escape

How do we deal with situations that we can escape and get away from but there are people who cannot leave and are trapped?

(This article was written in Nov, 2017)

I have been mentally struggling lately with situations going on in the world that I cannot change and honestly have no idea how to even approach it mentally. My struggle with these situations is made a little more intense because recent events and changes in my family’s living situation. Let me explain a bit.

The main situation currently going on creates internal tension for me is the Rohingya situation in Myanmar and Bangladesh. For those of you reading that have not heard about it. The Rohingya are a Muslim people group that live in western Myanmar and have been heavily persecuted and victimized by their government. They are not seen as citizens, have very few rights and recently have been violently forced to leave their home and villages, which have been burned, often with some people still inside. They have fled to Bangladesh for safety over the last month or two. But this week the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar reached an agreement to send them back to Myanmar in the coming months. The agreement does not include any guarantees of rights or citizenship, it merely sends them back to their attackers and oppressors

I think the reason that this kind of hits home with me is that my family just moved to a new country because the pollution levels in the country we were living in were having a direct impact on my wife’s health.

What makes this hard for me to process is that because of where I was born and the opportunities presented to me I have the ability to change locations, jobs and other factors that are not good, or that are making my situation worse. If the environment is bad I can move to another city. I can find a different job my current one is stressing me out. I can change the foods I eat if they are making me sick. In short I have control over my circumstances and can change them as needed.

A concrete example of this is our recent move. We have spent the last two years living in and based out of Cambodia. The first year we lived in Cambodia we spent most of the year traveling for work and spent very little time in Cambodia. Our second year in Cambodia started in August of 2016 and soon after we settled in from our time on the road traveling my wife Lorilee became very ill with a severe episode of chronic fatigue and spent 5 days in the hospital. After the five days in the hospital she spent most of this year on bed rest unable to do much of anything because of lack of energy.

After trying many different treatments, changes in diet and other supplements. We took a trip to Thailand and almost immediately Lorilee immediately began to feel better. After 2 months in Thailand we knew we needed to move away from Cambodia for her health.

Realizing that we needed to leave because of the polluted environment was a hard realization. While it was a privilege to be able to live in Cambodia as we are not citizens, it is also an incredible privilege and blessing to be able to leave a country when it becomes bad for you to be there. We had multiple discussions about this privilege and the discomfort the ability to escape less than desirable circumstances brings. It is something I don’t know how to deal with other than to be grateful for the blessing of mobility and try to work to help the people there have a better life by supporting organizations that are bettering the lives of the Cambodian people.

So my question is this, how do we relate to people who have no good choices, who are trapped and do not have the buffer or margins to make changes to improve their situation?

I honestly don’t have an answer, I feel like awareness of our privilege and gratitude are the first two steps. After that I’m not sure what to do other than to look for ways I can contribute to making those situations better.

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