on Jun 13, 2017
Celebrating Freedom: Fatherhood, Freedom, and Paying it Forward
Written by: Andrew Kooman
A while ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of newly landed immigrants to Canada to talk about the importance of peace and the importance of freedom as they adapted to a new life in a new country.
I shared the story of how my father’s side of the family arrived in Canada from Holland. By boat. After surviving the dark and horrible days of occupation during the Second World War. When it seemed like the war might never end, when it seemed impossible to go one more day without food, they were liberated, made free by Canadian Forces on May 5, 1945.
My father was born in Canada, a first generation Canadian. Like so many others, my family's story started in another country, but Canada has become our home.
As we celebrate 150 years of our great nation and look to the future, we cannot celebrate Canada without celebrating peace or freedom.
What an amazing country we live in! We are blessed with so much freedom, safety, and opportunity. We have the freedom to think what we want, worship how we want, meet where we want, say what we want, believe what we want, do what we want, and read what want. We have the freedom to dream and plan for the future.
This freedom is the door that opens each of our lives to a wide and wonderful future of possibilities. Strangely, though, if you live in Canada long enough, you can start to take for granted all that makes it great, even our freedoms. What is more, in the comfort and security of such peace, we can easily become blind to the plight of others for whom peace and freedom are only dreams.
As a new father, I hope to instill in my son a true appreciation for that freedom and to teach him to use it to secure freedom for others. In my own experience, the way I have come to understand freedom’s true value is by going to places in the world where the same freedom does not exist.
I have seen the unthinkable exploitation refugees fleeing violence from Burma experience in Malaysia. I heard first-hand the toll these shocking human rights abuses have on young children and their families. A common theme I heard from these refugees was that they simply want to be safe and free. They wanted to have peace so that their children could go to school, get a good education, and get jobs in order to thrive.
Like these refugees, I was also a visitor to Malaysia. The only difference between us was that I had a Canadian passport, and so Malaysia granted me rights and freedoms.
I moved in the country freely.
The refugees were in hiding.
Similarly, my writing on the brutality of human trafficking has shown me the terrible realities faced by victims of child sexual exploitation both in Canada and around the world. Meeting survivors of human trafficking and hearing them share about the incredible new life they know when they are set free and start the journey toward wholeness is the difference between darkness and light,
despair and hope.
What my experience writing about trafficking and injustice, meeting its victims and its survivors has taught me, is that freedom is power.
What I know with more certainty now, and what I hope to pass on to my son, is that what we do with that freedom matters even more. We need to continue to open that door to others.
Like those brave Canadian soldiers who liberated my grandparents in Holland, my prayer is that my family will use our freedom to continue to liberate others, from whatever darkness or injustice overshadows them.
The word peace means freedom from disturbance, freedom from anxiety, quiet.
We must use the gifts that we are given–peace and freedom–to help others. Wherever we are, we can seek peace, helping those who have disturbance, unquiet, and anxiety in their lives to be free where they don't have peace. There are people with such needs in every part of the world.
I plan to celebrate my own freedom by championing it for others. Surely being Canadian means nothing if we don't help others in ways both small and great to ensure they have freedom and peace.
Andrew Kooman is a Canadian author and playwright. His critically acclaimed stage play She Has A Name is now available in paperback and is a new feature film by Unveil Studios.
This post is part of a series celebrating Canada 150.