Without a Country or a Home

The Long Return Home – Pakistan Flood 2010

History shows us that those without a country struggle with national identity, have no voice and no advocate”~ Annie Rebekah Gardner

On days when I most want to settle into my comfortable armchair of self pity with my iced cold cup of whining I am forced by outside voices into awareness of someone or something that is more important than my comfort. Into the frustration of a rainy afternoon came a “Faces of the Displaced” photo montage that shook me out of  the armchair and spilled my cup demanding my full attention. Beautifully shot, the people are so real and cry out for me to be aware of their plight. By the end of the montage there had been 39. But 39 out of how many million?

I am far too realistic to think that finding homes for millions of people is in my purview. I know better. But I have been learning about the power of the written word in raising awareness and encouraging action in the form of time, money, and prayer. The media moves on quickly but bloggers don’t have to. When the luxury of a newscamera detailing a tragedy for the international news ends, bloggers can continue to bring attention to the humanitarian need in places far away . So here are some facts:

  • UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) says there are almost 10.4 million refugees living outside their home countries.
  • The number of internally displaced people worldwide reached 27.5 million in 2010, the highest number since the mid-1990s (Reuters)
  • Worldwide, Pakistan has the highest number of internally displaced persons (people forced to leave their homes because of violence, humanitarian crisis, violation of human rights) at 1.2 million
  • While international law gives certain rights to refugees who cross over borders, internally displaced people have none of those rights
  • It is estimated that 80% of refugees are women and children (Refugees International)
  • International law does not allow a refugee to be forced back to the country they have fled
  • UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) says there are three long-term solutions to the refugee crisis: Return; local integration; and third country resettlement.
  • Recently Libyans have poured into both Egypt and Tunisia to escape the violence of the regime.
  • The recent crisis in Japan displaced over 300,000

These bullet pointed facts force me into action when I consider my love of ‘home’. As I daily walk home after long days at work I revel that in minutes I will walk in the door, there will be light and warmth, kitties and cookies, comfort and freedom. That’s what home can be and refugees,whether internally or externally displaced, have lost their home and their refuge from the assaults of the world. So what can one person do?

  • Welcome refugees in your community, sponsor a refugee family, volunteer at Catholic Relief Services or Church World Service
  • Look into Durable Solutions for Displaced People and see what you could do to help.
  • If you attend a church or are part of a faith community encourage the sponsoring of refugee families

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3 thoughts on “Without a Country or a Home

  1. Perhaps the most heartbreaking loss for a refugee is the loss of home. In the many years we lived in Pakistan, we knew many, many poor people. One of the great revelations for me was how happily many or most of them lived with so little in the way of material comforts. What they had was the security of a place to call home and of belonging to the people they called family. At the beginning of one hot season, a woman said to me, “Well, I need to go and buy myself a new refrigerator.” I replied, “That’s very nice. What kind of a refrigerator will you get?”
    She laughed then, and confessed that she was talking about the poor man’s ” refrigerator”, a very large clay jug that could keep things cool through the evaporation of a small amount of water in the bottom. Content with so little because she had what mattered most. To lose that place we call home and as so many refugees have, to lose family members or to lose contact with the extended family and the community they belonged to, that is so completely devastating. Yes, we who have so much should be doing so much more! Thanks, Marilyn!


    1. Thanks so much for this comment mom – I love the story of the woman and the refrigerator. It brings up the deeper thoughts on what is a home – what have we made it into in the west, and what is it in much of the rest of the world.


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