Asylum seekers and more evoke memories of Over the Rainbow

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 3, 2018

Yip Harburg’s lyrics from The Wizard of Oz inspire dreams of a better life. Photo by Warren Harbeck

The hopes and dreams of more than 100 asylum seekers from Central America and the themes of two panel discussions have tugged on my heart with memories of one of the most inspiring songs of the 20th century.

I’m referring, of course, to Over the Rainbow, from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz (lyrics by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, music by Harold Arlen, and sung by Judy Garland).

The song has long been associated with longings for a land characterized by respect, happiness and peace instead of intolerance, injustice and inhumanity – a land “somewhere over the rainbow … where the clouds are far behind,” where “skies are blue and the dreams that you dared to dream really do come true.”

Do you suppose this is the kind of dream that inspired the mostly Honduran migrants to risk a month-long trek across Mexico in the hope of finding a new home in the United States, a land “over the rainbow” where their dreams of a better life just might come true, a place of peace?

Peace? Yes, but “peace” must be understood in a much broader sense than just as the absence of war. At last week’s World Religions Conference in Cochrane, it was this bigger sense of peace that panelists from five major religious traditions addressed.

Prof. David Lertzman, representing Judaism, captured this meaning of peace in his discussion of the Hebrew word, shalom. It’s about “wholeness,” he said, achieved through practicing the “Sacred Presence” among each other, expressed through respect and social justice. And with this all the other panelists agreed.

But what about right here in Canada? In a country whose citizens by and large have had their understanding of justice and goodwill toward others informed by their religious heritages, are their own defining values and practices at risk?

Sunday, May 6, 4:00 pm, at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre, 1607 90 Ave. SW., the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews is holding a free public debate on the question, “Is government action eroding religious freedom in Canada?”

I hope to see many of our readers there as we consider whether Canada will continue to be a land “over the rainbow” where our religious rights and freedoms are protected. Peace!


PS   Readers of the digital edition of this week’s column can experience “Voice of Hawaii” IZ Kamakawiwo’ole’s stirring rendition of Over the Rainbow on YouTube.


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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