Mother's column – seeking happiness


Christian Life

Neline, CNE.news

Refugee family in a Dutch refugee centre. Image not related to article. Photo ANP, Erik van 't Woud

Almost thoughtless, I scroll down my Facebook timeline. Sunny pictures, shady quotes, like-and-win actions, reflective articles, and clips with handy life hacks which will change your life forever. And then suddenly I come across a news heading: "Syrian boy (14) commits suicide in Asylum Centre." "He wanted to stay in the Netherlands forever", the article's first lines read. Do I want to know this, or should I scroll further to the life hacks?

This time, I decide to not look away. In the article, a younger brother talks about the dream of the 14-year-old Ali to become a heart surgeon. He shows a big book about anatomy that his brother was reading. Ali spoke five languages and was the best Dutch speaking member of the family, he says. But there was no future in the Netherlands for Ali and his family. They had fled to Spain first. The family was allowed to stay there and received a house – a room without windows. Unlivable for a family of eight, his father thought. Therefore, he looked for a better place for his children to grow up. He requested asylum in the Netherlands.

That proved to be a hopeless attempt. When I write this down, it sounds very logical. There was no war in Spain. If we welcomed all fortune seekers with open arms, half of the South European population and all of Africa would knock on the door next year. Laws are laws.


Neline is married and the mother of five: Martha (8), Abel (6), Jolijn (5), Reinout (3) and Sifra (0).

But for Ali, who had already experienced bad things in Syria and knew a life full of insecurity, the definitive decision of the Immigration Service was a personal drama. He saw his dream fall apart. He did not see any future anymore.

I do not believe there are simple solutions for mass migration. However, I do think that it would help quite a bit if we would no longer talk so derogatory about 'fortune seekers'. As if we have an exclusive right to comfortable lives, prosperity and endless possibilities to develop ourselves. As if we are not all seeking happiness for ourselves and the people we love.

"Do you ever cry?" Jolijn asks me a few days later, out of the blue. "Oh yes", I say. "When do you do it then?" Jolijn wants to know. "When I read a sad story or something bad happens, for example." "Okay. I sometimes have to cry too. For example, when I fell, and I have a sore knee." She continues to play with her toys. I think about Ali. Will his mom ever be able to laugh again?



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.