Buteman editor Craig Borland looks at the reaction to the news that 15 Syrian families will be coming to Bute - and at preparations for their arrival.
The talk by Dima AlMekdad at Rothesay Library last week was one of the most powerful things I’ve heard in my time on Bute.
Neither Dima nor her colleagues Bassam Dawood and Julia Rampen were there specifically to talk about thewar which has torn Syria apart and left millions of people homeless.
But the fact Bute had already been identified as the first place in Argyll and Bute suitable for giving refugee families a home made it no surprise that the questions which followed the trio’s performance as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival should focus on the issue.
Dima laid out in stark fashion the reality of life as a Syrian asylum seeker, and her experiences - which you can read about in full by clicking here - should give pause for thought to anyone not quite sure how to meet the challenge of the 15 Syrian families who will come to live on Bute between now and Christmas.
It’s a challenge that will be considerable. Bute is a hugely welcoming place, but, through no fault of its own, it’s not very multicultural. Few on Bute know much of the Middle East, fewer still of Syria itself.
There have, predictably but depressingly, been grumbles about how we should look after our own first, how we should be spending our taxes and so on. But mostly these are just not-very-thinly-veiled ways of people saying “I don’t want them in my back yard”.
Well, I do. I want Bute to be a place where people who come here with little more than the clothes they are standing in can feel safe and at home. I want Bute to be a place known not for narrow-minded bigotry, but for its warmth, and humanity, and willingness to help people with nothing in whatever way it can.
The families coming to Bute have been through things we can’t begin to imagine. Surely as human beings we have a duty to help. But more than that, we have an opportunity to show them, and the world, that Bute is a wonderful place to call your home.