Voices Crying Out in the Wilderness

Dear Friends for Life:  Poet Warsan Shire hit a nerve  recently with this evocative stanza from her poem “Home”. No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border / when you see the whole city / running as well.” and “no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land.”

With 21 million refugees, does anyone really believe that this large number of people decided beforehand to join the ranks of a refugee. I doubt it very much. No-one in their wildest dreams expects to become a refugee. Imagine a doctor heading home from work after a busy day at the hospital, or a mechanic fixing a broken axel on a Toyota truck in the early afternoon, or a girl walking to school with a schoolbag draped over her shoulder, or a father kissing his son goodnight.

Every one of them expects tomorrow to be the same as today. Each is relaxed and in a sense enjoying the moment. But fear can come in that same moment. It can be the sound of gunfire, the fall of a bomb, a knock at the door. Many of those forced to flee have just minutes to make vital decisions, to grab what they can and run.

IMAGINE: everything crumbles around you and you only have 60 seconds to pack up before you run. What would you take with you? Test yourself. Look at your immediate surroundings: what three things would you take with you? In 60 seconds, write down three things.

Next where will you go? How will you travel? Who will you take. These are desperate choices, made in moments, that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

In 2015, most of these refugees come from 10 countries: starting with the most, Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, Somalia, 

South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Eritrea and Colombia. Combined, the top 10 major source countries for refugees accounted for 76% of the global refugee population.

Try to visualise millions of refugees who have no place to call home. How would they define the word “home”? I would suggest five areas as being basic to the hearts of many refugees: (1) where I can relax and live in peace; (2) where I think freely and do things that I like; (3) where my family and friends live; (4) where I speak my mother tongue; (5) where I can go to school, work and worship.

Without a safe home, refugees face severe suffering with no promise that they and their families will survive. This is unacceptable in a world with so many resources and means. Christians and other religious groups must concretely show refugees that they are with them on their unknown journey, that they concretely assist them in every human way possible and concretely assure them that they have not been forgotten.

As for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of people from different cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its Catholicism. Pope Francis shows concern: “This tragedy … affects millions, and is fundamentally a crisis of humanity, calling for a response of solidarity, compassion, generosity  and an immediate practical commitment of resources … Refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who are forced to leave their homes, … they share a fundamental right to live in peace and security.

We cannot remain silent anymore as global forced displacement hits record high. Concrete Action, not words, will alleviate the crisis.I never thought I would become a refugee are voices crying out in the wilderness to deaf ears.

(Romans 12:13 – “Mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…”)  The depth of our faith is determined by the Justice shown to strangers, to refugees.

Stay Informed:

1. Download UNHCR PDF –  Global forced displacement as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, … 

2. Catholic Social Teaching on Refugees and Asylum Seekers

     God Bless
Jerry Novotny, OMI


(The Difference is LIFE)  “Here I speak not only to those who enjoy the blessings and consolation of revealed religion but also to those who face the mysteries of human destiny alone. The flame of Christian ethics is still our highest guide. To guard and cherish it is our first interest, both spiritually and materially. The fulfilment of Spiritual duty in our daily life is vital to our survival. Only by bringing it into perfect application can we hope to solve for ourselves the problems of this world and not of this world alone.” – Winston Churchhill


Websites by Fr. Jerry


(EnglishFighting for the Culture of Life – Fr. Jerry’s Blog


(JapaneseHuman Rights: The Road to a Happy Life – Fr. Jerry’s Blog

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