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Hidden lives 3: Afraid of the dark

To highlight the darkness in the lives of the urban refugees.

by Helen Redfern

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To highlight the darkness in the lives of the urban refugees.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Leader In this assembly, we are going to think about the issue of darkness and the first question I want to ask you is, ‘Are you afraid of the dark?’

    Reader 1 I wouldn’t say that I am particularly afraid of the dark, but I must confess, I don’t like walking home from Youth Club in the dark. Even though the streets are familiar, they seem scarier in the dark. You can’t see what’s lurking in the bushes or whether the person walking towards you is carrying a knife or not. I know it’s just my imagination working overtime, but I’m always glad to reach my front door safely.

    Reader 2 Well, I have a real problem with the dark. I’ve never been able to sleep without the light on. I know it’s stupid and I’ve really tried, but, when the light goes off, I start seeing strange shadows and hearing weird noises and I get so scared. I feel like a fool at sleepovers, but the night is the most frightening time of the day for me and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    Reader 3
    I love the dark. Going for a walk in the moonlight is so cool. Everything seems different, more mysterious and magical. Everyone acts different in the dark, too. They do things they wouldn’t do in the light. I love the sense of adventure that the night brings. Mind you, people think they can get away with being stupid and dangerous in the dark and sometimes it doesn’t end well, I have to admit that.

    Leader
    I wonder how you feel about the dark. It certainly does change our perception of our surroundings and, for many, adds a feeling of anxiety, fear or foreboding to our experience.
  2. Set the ‘Hidden Lives’ website’s homepage slideshow going.

    Leader During 2012, the award-winning photographer Andrew McConnell visited cities in eight different countries around the world to take these photos of urban refugees for his exhibition, ‘Hidden Lives’. What do you notice about the photographs? What do they all have in common?

    Invite responses until someone points out that the photos have all been shot at night.

    Yes, that’s right. All of the photographs have been shot at night. In the dark. Deliberately. This is not because these individuals only go out at night – although, in some cases, some of the refugees do prefer the cover of darkness to avoid being stared at or persecuted.

    In fact, in some of these areas, going out at night is positively dangerous. In an interview, Andrew McConnell tells of his experience in Eastleigh – a violent suburb of Nairobi, in Kenya. He was downright scared of being on the streets after dark and the crew could not take their time getting the perfect shot. They could not even stand still for long for fear of drawing attention and being attacked.

    The key reason Andrew McConnell shot all of these photos at night, though, was to use the literal darkness to convey a metaphorical darkness. You’ve all heard the expression ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Well, that does not mean a literal light at the end of a literal tunnel; it refers to the light as a sense of hope when you are surrounded by fear, anxiety and despair, which can feel like the darkness you experience in a tunnel.

  3. Each of these urban refugees has a story to tell. Many have fled their homes, having faced unbearable suffering or persecution. Many have had to leave family and friends for their own safety, but living as a refugee in a foreign city can still feel like living in the darkness. Isolated. Ignored. Rejected. Without hope. Without a future. In fear of persecution and deportation.
  4. Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, an Ethiopian refugee living in Kenya, describes his daily life like this: ‘I cannot walk freely, I cannot go where I want in this country, there is always a security issue.’

    Many refugees are captured and deported to Ethiopia. Some are left to suffer indefinitely in detention centres.
  5. Show the picture of Lanier Lovely, from the source mentioned above.

    This is Lanier Lovely and her son. Her home in Haiti was destroyed in the earthquake in 2010. She moved to live in what she thought was the safety of the refugee camp on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. One night, when the people around her had gone to the countryside for a funeral, Lanier was threatened with a knife and raped. She tried to scream, but her attacker just closed her mouth with his hand. She didn’t want anyone to know what had happened and, by the time anyone found out, she was two months’ pregnant.

    Her little boy is called Lovinsky and she loves him very much, but she can’t help thinking that if she had had her family round her, this wouldn’t have happened. She never saw the rapist again, but she doesn’t feel safe any more. She worries the same thing could happen again. The camp definitely needs more security and lights at night.

    Lanier has every reason to be afraid of the dark and for her and many of the refugees there is a feeling that they are living their whole lives in darkness. They have no sense of security or safety. They miss their families. They have no jobs, no sense of self-worth.

Time for reflection

Leader There are many people around us in the world every day who feel that they are living in darkness. The challenge to each one of us is how can we shine as a light in the darkness? Listen to these suggestions as you reflect on this question now.

Reader 1 How can we shine as a light in the darkness in our city today?

Reader 2 We can smile at a stranger, give someone our seat on the bus or buy a copy of the Big Issue.

Reader 1 How can we shine as a light in the darkness in our community today?

Reader 2 We can thank our community policeman, put our litter in the bin or help our neighbour with the shopping.

Reader 1 How can we shine as a light in the darkness in our school today?

Reader 2 We can show respect to our teachers, clear away our plate at lunchtime or be a supportive friend.

Reader 1 How can we shine as a light in the darkness in our home today?

Reader 2 We can let Mum choose what to watch on TV, have a chat on the phone with Grandad or play on the Wii with our little brother.

Leader Let us conclude our time together with a short prayer. You may make these words your own if you wish.

Prayer

Dear God,
we remember to you the refugees living in difficult circumstances in big cities all over the world.
Many feel as if they are living in darkness.
May they see a light at the end of the tunnel.

We thank you for the work of Andrew McConnell and pray that his exhibition will help light shine on urban refugees.

Help us to be aware of the darkness around us.
Help us to shine as a light.
Help us to be there for someone else today.
Amen.

Hymn

‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: June 2013   (Vol.15 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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