By Laurie Stark
A quarter of a billion people, globally, are classified as refugees or “forcibly displaced persons,” the highest level of displacement in history, forced from their homes and/or homelands due to war, natural disaster, persecution, violence, discrimination and other dire circumstances beyond their control. This year the largest refugee crisis in history became even larger due to the conflict in Ukraine.
The definition of the word home has become increasingly more complicated.
In 1951 the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, envisioned refugee status as a temporary one for people living in well-founded fear of or have suffered persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion and who, as a result, require protection until they can return safely to their country of origin, gain permanent residency in the country to which they fled or be resettled in yet another country.
These solutions have receded. Barriers have been erected.
More than half of the world’s refugees have been displaced for more than five years, some for decades. They are considered “protracted refugees,” and by virtue of this status are unable to take root. And their numbers are fast growing due to the increase in both war and humanitarian crises.
One flees their home, and they’re homeless. One flees their homeland, and they are rudderless. Individuals, families, the elderly, children with or without siblings or parents are relocated, often multiple times, into temporary, sometimes makeshift housing, whether in their country or out each stop is as foreign and uncertain as the previous and often the next.
Perhaps we can attempt to put ourselves in their place, separated from family, friends, the life that you’d built, the culture that enveloped you. How might that affect you? The fear, the unknown, first domestic then foreign discrimination, meeting hostility or violence in strange lands, the world upended. Consider in each life as in yours, a home is needed, work is needed reunified family, a place to belong, the ability to feel safe, psychological support, services to tend to the terror, the broken hearts and damaged psyches of all effected. Along with shelter, clothing and medical attention, there must be love, kindness, generosity and willingness, these are the things people, removed, afraid, brutalized, bewildered and in need should be met with.
This is the way to engender hope in those who desperately need it. We know this because we’ve all experienced at one time or another the need for warmth, for kindness, for support, reassurance and most of all for hope. We need to know and to feel that we are cared about. And we’re called not just only to care but also to learn and to act because, truly, we are one. Because today it’s you that needs help, tomorrow it’ll be me. There is no “other” there’s only “we.” No matter where we sit right now in some way, someone has less, someone needs more. It’s our choice each day, do we turn away or do we act?