The word “borders” can stir up many different feelings. Growing up in N. Ireland the Border was something you did not cross and in my teenage years it was heavily patrolled! At primary school a border was what you ruled on both sides of the page and kept your writing within. As I played racquet sports “borders” were white lines which determined if your play was in or out!

We have used “borders” to divide the world but in doing so we have divided humanity, divided ourselves, divided cultures, and cities and all at such great cost! I recently read Kapka Kassabova’s travel/memoir Border, A Journey to the Edge of Europe. As a child Kassabova grew up on three borders, in southeast Europe, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. She tells an amazing story of the clash of Soviet and Ottoman empires, Europe /Asia, and encounters remarkable people along the way.  I abridge one such encounter in the following excerpt. Kassabova meets Father Alexander in Edirne, Thrace.

‘You ask what we are here.’ Father Alexander said suddenly. ‘We are not Europe and we are not Asia. We are Thrace. Notice: those who live in the European part of Turkey don’t tend to cross the Bosphorus. They like to stay on the Balkan peninsula, close to Europe. This is Thrace.’ And you? I asked.  ‘Don’t ask me what I am! Father Alexander cried theatrically. ‘I’m a human being. Isn’t that enough?’

Ponder for a moment and ask yourself these questions – Do we cross borders or do borders cross us? What does it mean to be human? Listen to your answer!

Space prevents me from using the complete poem, hopefully these few lines encourage you to take a moment to hear the poem in full which can be found using the link below for a recorded reading by the poet.

A Brief History of Border Crossings by Gregory Djanikian
Inevitable that it should happen:
the bus I’m on pulls into
any sleepy town on the border
between here and the paradise beyond,
and the old anxiety comes back-  

and I’m thinking how any Tom
or Harry would handle it, the drive
to the checkpoint, the officer
sauntering up to the car
and looking me over, and nothing
about me betraying the 100 mangoes
tucked underneath the seat,
or the five cases of Mocha Supremo
in the lock-tight trunk, my face open
and friendly, without a flinch
or the slightest doubt of who
I am, or am willing to become.
Please note the poem can be found as No 19 on the linked page!

I give thanks to you
O Holy God.
Your steadfast love
endures forever.
You gather all peoples,
and embrace your world
from east to west,
from north to south.
I give thanks to you
O loving God,
such is the vastness of your love
nothing can hem it in, its reach
is everywhere.
O gracious God,
forgive me when I
create borders,
when I draw a line and
determine who is in and who is out.
Teach me what it means to be human.
And in trying I will become holy. Amen.

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