It’s hard to discover yourself, it’s hard to come to the place where you can understand the meaning of life because you always live as someone is going to die tomorrow, with no hope for the future.
The first time I came [to Australia], someone came up to me and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m looking for someone to call, someone to help me”. He said, “Let me help you”. I said, “Thank-you”, and he said, “No worries”. And I was like, “Oh, wow! No worries here! So you don’t need to worry about anything in Australia!”
I was happy, I was happy to hear that. Sometimes, people, they can see [other] people walking around and doing stuff, but there’s a different background, there’s different difficulties. But because you don’t know, it’s hard to understand, even if something can change your life completely. ‘No worries’ was for me like a key to move on.
My name is Saul from Burundi. Burundi is a small country of eight million population. I was born in Burundi, grew up in Burundi, and many things happened in my family. I remember seeing soldiers coming to the house in the night. They took my mom, she was pregnant – one of the family [had] joined the opposition party, he’s my uncle, my mum’s brother. It was at night, maybe 9pm, my two sisters, small ones, they were running, just crying to my mum when she was taken, and they were just killed up there. It was hard – I spent one, two years, three years, almost 24, 25 years in different situations. It’s hard to discover yourself, it’s hard to come to the place where you can understand the meaning of life because you always live as someone is going to die tomorrow, with no hope for the future.
When I came to Australia, one of the big challenges I met was everyone trying to ask, “Why did you come to Australia?” To be honest, to come to another country is not like you can call it a choice because you had no choice. But the purpose was, I need somewhere to be safe, I need somewhere I can live like other people, somewhere I can start to realise, “Who am I, what can I do, what can I bring to the society?”
[In Burundi] the situation around me doesn’t tell me what is going to happen tomorrow. I can talk about this with confidence [now] because I met wonderful people in JRS and they helped me to become someone, I can stand up now, I know where I’m going, I’m here as, I can say, a testimony of what I’ve been doing in my life and I know the best is yet to come.
I just want to tell you, people from outside this country, it’s hard sometimes for people from here to understand because you have no trouble, you have no worries – no worries about shooting, you never see people shooting other people and you’ve never seen people with knives [stabbing] another person, never in your eyes.
One thing I can ask you, as someone who is looking for asylum, we need love from you. We need someone to understand, because it’s very hard, especially for you to understand us because you [think differently] about people from outside the country – “We don’t know what they’re bringing, we don’t know what they’re going to do here, we don’t know anything”.
But I can just tell you: we need you. We need you to help us, to change [society’s] mind, because we can bring something if you’re giving us a chance to be in society, giving us a chance to discover ourselves, to get on with our lives. What you give to us is a good thing because, if this will happen one day, [if] we go back to our countries, what we’ll do is to bring to them the love we get from you, it is to bring to them the hope you give to us, bring to them the knowledge you give to us.
This keynote speech was delivered at the launch of JRS’ Sanctuary and Sustenance exhibition during Refugee Week 2014. Saul’s name has been changed to protect his identity.