Post Image

Embracing Refugeehood

April 3, 2017

Doctors without borders organized an interactive exhibit called “Forced from Home”; a project started few months ago simulating (wherever they toured in the U.S.) a real refugee camp environment so that participants get a better understanding and education about what it means to be a refugee. I was inspired mainly about the way they prepared exercises in terms of giving a chance to the participants to get out of their own self-consumed heads and walk in the shoes of someone elsewhere facing life’s most difficult challenges.

Should you be ‘forced from home’, what would you take? You’re reminded during the exercise that you don’t have time to be comprehensive in your packing. After all, most probably you’ll be packed together with thousands of other people in a bus, or a truck or a boat which means that the lighter your luggage is the better. So choose quickly and mindfully.

I thought this should be required experiment to all of us in order to be, even if just for a moment, forced to evaluate what life really comes down to. Disaster scenarios give a perspective into who we really are and all the existential crises and emotional trauma we would face were we to be stripped of financial stability, career prospects, family and friends and left only with barely-met vital needs (food, water, shelter).

Sarah Stillman, a reporter who, while acknowledging the benefits of these exercises, she also questioned about the nature of these exercises; how MSF organized them in a way that participants get more than the momentary empathy, i.e. more than the “self-congratulatory chances to momentarily pause from [their] days, quickly imagine what’s like to be one of these [refugees] and then jump back into our lives and pat ourselves on the back that we have done so, but without really any stakes of mind or action really taken…”

I think the question hits the nail right on the head. It would be a waste of time and money if the effort was not followed by concrete actions. Refugees need more than our pity. But help isn’t cheap. But it is a necessity—as it should, if the exercise proved to be of any benefit. Stillman’s point was to make sure MSF fully uses this opportunity to engage the attendants in real financial care planning/actions for fellow refugees rather than settle for fleeting sympathy.

On a personal level, I think that picturing what it is like to be a refugee is in itself commendable. I agree with Stillman that it’s of no use if it’s without “stakes of mind”: an understanding of someone else’s desperation for relief, pain of unquenched thirst and the loss of all that used to be a ground for identity (community, belongings…) must give us an invaluable insight into our own plight—otherwise it won’t be of any use.

“My whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there’s no water,” said the psalmist while in the desert of Judah, fleeing from Jerusalem—his home. Taking the pain of severe bodily thirst as an index to his need for God is what beats me. Understanding his need for God above getting back all he had is just uncommon. “God is my refuge” he said somewhere else; which implied a bigger disaster if he was to lose the source of all joys and satisfaction and protection and purpose. So, where do you go?

Refugeehood gets us in touch of our humanness, but most importantly it helps us assess our lives in a way we learn to hold loosely whatever is ephemeral and hold fast, acquire what really matters, what really lasts, what cannot be taken away from you—and God is just that.

“Your love is better than life…I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods.”


Post Image
Be different! Be yourself!

For those who do not accept them they are called intolerant for rejecting them for who they are—which is a kind of violation of basic human rights. Beside, as one of them asked, ‘who are you to impose your own morals to another human being?’


Copyright © 2024, Remesha.