By Hilary Bizumuremyi
“Home, sweet home! There is no place like Home”. Yes, there is no place like home, as Sir Henry Bishop put it. Unfortunately, there is no any other choice but to leave the sweet home when one’s life is in danger. Events which put one’s life in danger differ in nature. Some are considered as more dangerous than others. The threat to life can be war and massacres, repressive and oppressive regimes, human rights abuses, poverty and hunger, natural disasters… No matter the nature of the threat to life, people leave the sweet home to find safety somewhere else because they feel their life is threatened. Let it be separated children, the elder, the sick, strong men and women …they all leave their homes, their belongings, their family members and their peers behind. They have been living in their homes for decades and decades, but a threat pushes them to leave their sweet homes. When running away from war and massacres, oppressive and repressive regimes, human rights abuses, or natural disasters the persons do not have time for preparations or for planning the journey. They just leave; they take with them their lives for an unknown destination. Leaving home for safety is damaging socially, economically, emotionally and mentally, but spiritually, migrants often grow stronger and stronger. During the Rwandan genocide many people cited the Holy Rosary and prayed incessantly while in the hiding or travelling to unknown destinations till they were killed; many refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo did the same when they were being hunted down. I prayed to God during that war, He listened to me, He guided me, He protected me and I survived.
The journey in search for safety is not often safe. It is another unsafe situation which puts the lives of migrants in danger. But migrants still take the unsafe journey with the hope of one day arriving in a safe place. Migrants risk their lives along their journeys in search for safety by surrendering their lives to human traffickers, by spending days, weeks and months in the deserts without having access to enough food or water, by crossing rivers where they are likely to be chewed by crocodiles and other aquatic carnivores, by accepting to be packed in small boats to cross the seas and oceans, by accepting to be packed in trucks or in the boots of the cars like goods, by jumping fences or indeed by taking long journeys in the snow, the rain and the cold weather of the European winter. The die or get missing. The International Organisation for Migration highlights that in 2016 alone (as of 23rd February 2016), 413 migrants have lost their lives along their journeys. They were in search for safety.
Despite the horrible long, risky and uncertain journeys they do not lose hope and trust in God; they pray and persevere. Today, migrants from the war torn and conflict affected countries of Middle East and Africa do pray along their desperate journeys to Europe. Prayers and Faith in the Lord keep them strong and hopeful.
After long and risky journeys, the migrants arrive in a country that they thought it is safe. Unfortunately, life for migrants is not always safe in safe countries. They face the unexpected. They meet immigration and security officers who give them a variety of brands. Some are accepted as refugees (those who cannot return home because of the ‘well-founded ’fear of persecution), others are sheltered in tents built refugee camps, others sheltered in shipping containers, others are kept in asylum systems for many years, others are immediately rejected and forced to return home, others are called economic migrants; others evade the systems and live in the foreign countries in the hiding and undocumented. They are prejudiced and looked at in a negative way by host communities and when it is time for elections they become a political football. Even though some few migrants are lucky to get integrated, to have friends and support in their host countries, many migrants are isolated from the rest of their host societies. They live a separate life, a life in their own way; fearful, lost, homesick, neglected, stereotyped and dehumanised. Despite all the odds however, they don’t abandon their Almighty God.
The baby Jesus and his family took a long journey for safety from the Middle East to North Africa. His family was one of those lucky migrants who are welcomed and who receive care till safety returns to their countries of origin. He escaped danger, he grew up and he accomplished his mission on earth. Today, many babies, children and their families from the Middle East, Africa and all over the world are almost not welcome in Europe, Australia or in the USA where they thought conditions would be safe for them. They are denied the chance to be safe. They may not grow up; they may not develop their full potential to accomplish their mission on earth (every human being has a God-given mission on earth). It is shocking.
As an adult, a day came, the hour was near; Jesus was about to be separated from his disciples. Grief and anguish seized both Jesus and his disciple; they were broken-hearted. But there was no any other way; He had to go. On the way to Golgotha he had had physical pain, he fell down, he got thirsty and hungry, He got tired, …but strong in his Father and with the support of those who accompanied him along the way, he was able to endure to the last point where he died for the salvation of humanity. Migrants experience grief and anguish when they are separated with their families, their neighbours and their peers. They need to be accepted. They need someone to be close and to understand them again, they need someone to be close and support them again, and they need someone to love and to be loved. Indeed they need a home and someone to show that they are also good human beings; capable of doing the good and positively contributing to their host communities. They need you and me for their safety and their whole human growth. Undeniably, they also need their sweet homes to be safe. When you and I do not act for them to get what they need, we condemn them to danger.