The Casim family of Pictou had a long, emotional walk in their journey to Canada.
The family walked again – by choice and under much happier conditions – this past Sunday when they took part in the Pictou Walk with Refugees for a Stronger Canada.
The event, which was organized by CAiRN in support of World Refugee Day, was attended by approximately 40 people but the Casims were very much the star of the day.
The Casim family arrived in Pictou in February and were sponsored by CAiRN.
Jeni Armin-Pereda, an organizer for the event, explained the purpose of the walk.
“Through this walk we hope to raise awareness for the journeys undertaken by the many forcibly displaced people around the world,” she said. “The forcibly displaced are forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations.”
The patriarch of the Casim family, Abdulkadir, spoke to the crowd through translator Ahmed Nassrat to tell his story and stress the need for continued support of refugees.
“Tears filled my eyes as we departed from our country leaving loved ones behind to head to Turkey for the start of the refugee journey,” Casim said. “This was an incredibly tough journey that involved crossing over barbed wires, carrying our belongings which weighed over 50 kilograms, in addition to my son Omar who was five years old at the time on my shoulders.”
The family, he said, would walk from eight in the morning until midnight.
“The wars have driven us out of Syria where we lost many loved ones, either as a result of the war or drowning in the sea as a result of escaping from it,” Casim said. “Many who escaped through the sea became food for the fish or ended up being bombarded by the waves and very few have made it to a safe and happy future.
“When we arrived in Canada, friends had told me Canadians will not like us because we are Muslims. When we arrived in the airport at Halifax and saw the reception, I knew that we had come to a blessed and very welcoming place.”
Casim went on to thank CAiRN and the community of Pictou – in English – for looking after his children, Omar and Aise, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the province of Nova Scotia for “giving us a safe home.”
Casim’s wife, Lema expressed similar gratitude to the community. Lema Casim said she was worried she would miss her home during Ramadan but said that has not been the case as Pictou now feels like home.
The walk had no set distance and participants were free to walk as much or as little as they choose.
Top photo: Members of the community walked the Jitney Trail with the Casim family Sunday afternoon. The walk was organized to draw attention to the struggles forcibly displaced people live with.
INSET: Translator Ahmed Nassrat helps Abdulkadir Casim share the story of his family’s struggle and journey to Canada. Casim thanked the community of Pictou himself in English.