Mark Eckel continues his series on suffering. Visit Part 2 here, or seeÂ the series introduction and Part 1 here. Mark has also written aboutÂ the spiritual discipline of caring for a home here, a good complement to his poignant reflections on displacement in this post.
Nearly 60 million people are currently displaced from their homes by war and persecution â€” more than at any time since World War II. Half are children. In our current crisis, nearly 30 million children worldwide have been driven from their homes by war and persecution. Media coverage has lately focused on the Syrian dimension of this tragedy. But these 30 million girls and boys are from all over â€” Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Honduras, El Salvador, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.Â 
I felt the pain of the ordinary barn swallow.
A nest had been formedÂ in a humanly difficult spot: a corner ledge just above the main entry into the kitchen off the back porch of the house.Â I knew it would be a problem, for bird and human.
When I mentioned the nest to the home ownerÂ he told me to take it down, but if I didnâ€™t want to, he would.Â I was grateful for his so saying.Â I could not.Â
He did. The mud dauber nest is now gone. That morningÂ I watched with heavy heart as the swallows flew back and forth to the ledge looking for their home.Â
In some deep way I â€œfeel forâ€ those birds.Â DisplacementÂ must be an awful event. Forced removalÂ from oneâ€™s place contains devastation.Â Uprooted,Â a being is now forced to make another place their home, when anything else is foreign soil.
In human terms, the quotation above gives but a snapshot of the awful conditions for so many people. Refugee status means homelessness, plain and simple. So many people, so much suffering.
The Israelites understood what it meant to be aliens, strangers, refugees (Lev 19.33-34). Jesus had trouble finding a pillow for sleep (Matt 8.20; Luke 9.58). Paul was at times shipwrecked, adrift at sea, imprisoned, and without shelter (2 Cor 11.25-28). Peter writes to groups of Christians who are exiled by the throes of persecution (1 Pet 2.11-12).
Displacement happens to many, even when they have their own home.
In similar straits I ponderÂ what it means to have the common, the ordinary, the familiar taken away.Â The list of questions below have different answers depending on the day, depending on the time of day.
- How do you feel when you have beenÂ removed from that which is familiarÂ to you?
- How do you respond whenÂ the commonplace has been replaced and you are without a place?
- How do you grieve having beenÂ taken from what you knewÂ to the unknown?
- How do you withstand the knowledge thatÂ what once was, is no more?
- How do you go on, putting one foot in front of the other,Â knowing there is no â€˜homeâ€™ to return to?
I ache for those swallows, even now, as I reminisce about it.Â I weep for those families, those little ones, who wander without a roof, with no property except the dirt on which they stand.
And as I ponder those creatures and my fellow earth-dwellers, perhaps, just perhaps, I have some of my Father in me:
â€œIf I care for the birds, how much more do I care for you?â€
- How do we respond when given bad news, the worst news, life-changing news?
- How do you plan for the future when your future is â€œno place?â€
- How do you contemplate a home when you will never see â€œhomeâ€ again?
- How do you live with â€œtimeâ€ since your times have been separated from your place?
- How do you consider ownership, work, or your â€œstanding in the communityâ€ when you have nothing to own, you have no work, and you stand outside a community?
Dear Lord. I am a cork tossed on the seas of disappointment, discouragement, and sometimes, disaster. I can see nothing but the waves. I can feel nothing but the crushing weight of storm surges. I hear nothing but my own screams of pain above the howl of the wind. So, Lord, I cry out to You in my disenfranchisement. My alienation is sometimes more than I can bear. May the testimony of Your Son be my Lighthouse in the tempest, Your Word be my Light in the darkness. In the name of Jesus I pray, who was displaced for my sake, Amen.
 Jake Silverstein, â€œThe Displaced: Introduction,â€ New York Times Magazine 5 November 2015.Â http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/magazine/the-displaced-introduction.html
About the author:
Dr. Mark Eckel is adjunct professor for various institutions,Â President of The Comenius Institute (website), spends time with Christian young people in public university (1 minute video), hosts a weekly radio program with diverse groups of guests (1 minute video), interprets culture from a Christian vantage point (1 minute video), teaches weekly at his church (video) and writes weekly at his websiteÂ warpandwoof.org.