No matter our politics or religion or beliefs, there are some things that should be sacred. The sanctity of a church or masjid or gurdwara or synagogue or temple is one such place. Sanctuary is ancient. Sanctuary should be valued. It makes us squirm when we see individuals claim sanctuary when their claim is based on views or actions contrary to our own, or when their claim seems specious. However when we see obvious cases of injustice or persecution, we wholeheartedly support sanctity and stand behind it. I feel this same quandary – I question some claims, while others I loudly proclaim my support. This is the human way – we oftentimes go with what we know, and stay with our comfort zone when standing up to be counted.
Another place that should be sacred is an embassy or consulate. Again, no matter our politics or religion or beliefs. It is an agreement between governments – yet it should transcend politics – that we uphold the recognition of foreign land within our own land. For those of us who travel the world, and/or those of us who hold more than one citizenship or passport, embassies and consulates represent a place of refuge and safety. Again as well, we squirm when embassy and consular staff use their position or building to dodge justice, and similarly when citizens attempt to evade justice; but when we require assistance or aid far from home, we seek out those people and buildings. They have a familiarity about them to us, even if they sit juxtaposed to their surroundings. They are us, amid a foreign collage. Admittedly, at higher levels, they represent governments and countries on the political front – one only has to watch some international political squabble to watch the resultant recall or expulsion of an ambassador. Then there are the rest of us – travellers, tourists, business people, speakers, students, educators, aide workers, journalists – the commoners, so to speak. To us, embassies and consulates are our connection to home and our people. Even if we consider ourselves citizens of the world, most of us still have a perceived home base, and an embassy stands for that. Our embassy is our refuge when things go terribly wrong; they are our home in foreign lands. In good times and bad, they are our home and refuge.
Embassies and consulates are not our safety net for us behaving badly in another country and then hiding out there. Or at least that shouldn’t be what they are for, but there we go back to the squirm factor. Perhaps it is the price we pay for the privilege of refuge the rest of the time. If you have been wrongly accused, if you have been the victim of a crime, if you have run afoul of an obscure local law, if you are physically hurt, if your family member or travelling companion has been killed, if you are truly physically lost, (and the list goes on) you would appreciate the refuge of an embassy or consulate. Trust me. You would know that even though you might still be in dire straits, you can breathe once inside those hallowed halls. You won’t relax, but there is a temporary relief.
I have been in the place of some of my examples. I have sought sanctity. I have sought refuge. I have wept to the bottom of my soul and been comforted. Our world wasn’t the same afterward, but we have been able to go forward. And most importantly, the danger could not touch us. We were safe, albeit temporarily, in the sanctity of an embassy, and the grounds. If you have never been in that place, it might be difficult to comprehend the full weight of this feeling. But if you have been in that place, you would know with absolute conviction, that the sanctity of embassies and consulates must be upheld. No matter our politics or religion or beliefs. No matter the squirm factor.