We are all the Same, We are all Family

 Ali Raza Tonkin in conversation with Meri Fatin ::  Image courtesy of Marziya Mohammedali  http://kikei.net

Ali Raza Tonkin in conversation with Meri Fatin ::  Image courtesy of Marziya Mohammedali http://kikei.net

Can you imagine?  You are 15 yrs old.  People are shouting at you, pushing you onto a boat and you don't understand what they are saying.  You don't know how to swim, you've never learnt.  You are alone.  Everyone you have ever known and loved are not there.  You're just a boy.  

Ali Raza was raised by an affluent family, his Grandfather owned a jewellers in Pakistan.  Amidst the real threat of war and terrorism, there was a constant danger that children of the wealthier Pakistanis were being kidnapped.  What thoughts would race through your mind as a parent?

Ali described the day he was called home to his mother, being suddenly sent on an unscheduled trip to Thailand.  His Father and Uncle telling him he was accompanying them to buy jewels, only to be left there with his cousin to continue the perilous journey to Malaysia, Indonesia and finally months later, to Christmas Island.  Ali didn't have time to say goodbye to all his friends and family back home.  He recalls only casually saying goodbye to his mother.  I was struck by how deeply concerned his family must have been to make such a decision on his behalf. A fifteen year old boy, being sent unaccompanied that dangerous journey to avoid the very real possibility of kidnap in Pakistan.

When his journey finally led him to Christmas Island, Ali had no idea that he would be indefinitely detained when he arrived.  He said he imagined he would wander around for a couple of days then go to a migration office and be welcomed.

Ali recalls the happiest moment in his life.  In Pakistan, when his little sister was born.  She was only 2 yrs old when he left on his unscheduled trip.  He hasn't seen her since.  Now living in Perth, Ali has found a new passion.  When others collect objects, Ali collects photographs.  They form a montage of memories, his most treasured possessions.  At home in Pakistan, Ali's father has been shot but has luckily survived.  Despite that, he would not wish his journey on anyone and implores his parents not to ask the same of his little sister.

Now settled in Perth, Ali reflects that small acts remind him sometimes that he is not always welcome.  If he could share one learning from his journey it would be a message of unity.  "Be kind with everyone and don’t judge where they’re from.  Everyone has same coloured blood. Love each other.  We are all the same, we are all family."

Ali shared his story with us for Food for Thought, a monthly event aimed to raise funds for asylum seekers who are in offshore detention or those recently settled in Australia.  See some of Ali Raza's work here.  Like Food for Thought to see all our upcoming events.  

Follow Meri Fatin's incredible work at Three Gates Media.