Rarely do I find myself watching as much news media as I have over the past week due to the crisis in Ukraine. It is truly a horrifying situation with immense potential to exponentially increase at a global level. With the countless videos that I’ve watched, one recurrent theme pulls on my heart more than others. That has been the use of the word “home.” Refugee after refugee weeps of how they have left their home. They say that they have every intention to return to Ukraine, because that is their home. Victim after victim is pulled from the wreckage of their home. Others were even less fortunate and were buried beneath the rubble of their home. Volunteer after volunteer has declared they will die to defend their home. The world cheers for them because we feel for them as we sit within our homes.
It is so easy to empathize with anyone talking about their home. We all know what that means. We all know what it means to leave your home. We all know what it means to lose your home. We all know what it means to defend your home. It doesn’t mean we understand in full, but there is something so deeply human about the concept of a home that we cannot help but understand to some degree the pain that they must be experiencing.
Christians more than anyone ought to not just feel for the refugee, but to fight for them. Fight for their status. Fight for their welcome. Fight for their lives. We ourselves are strangers and aliens in this world that is not our home. We ourselves were outcasts who were brought into the palace and called sons and daughters. Even our King left the comfort of His home to rescue us in the wreckage we had made of ours and to offer us a heavenly home.
Although it is unlikely that America will experience any significant influx of Ukrainian refugees, we perhaps have never been in a better position in recent times to experience the flight and the horror that a refugee must endure. Although it shouldn’t necessarily be the case, it is well known that people are more inclined to empathize and connect with those more like themselves. I believe this is part of the reason why there has been such outrage over these events. This is Europe. A whole lot of these people can speak English. They sure wear a lot of Western brands. These cities do not look much different from our own. This feels a little too close to our home for comfort.
But regardless of the clothing style, the language, the culture, the race, or any other factors, all refugees are human refugees. All of them, no matter where they are from, deserve the same level of empathy, compassion, and action. So if we can use this chance to witness what this looks like, to imagine what it feels like, to grow in empathy, action, and outreach for the plight of not just Ukrainian refuges, but for all who must flee their homes, let us do so. Let’s just remember that the next time this occurs in Africa, or east Asia, or South America. Let us remember that, in the words of poet Warsan Shire:
No one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark…
You only leave home
when home won’t let you stay…
That no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land…
No one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
The above is a video demonstration with Warsan reading her poem “Home” which describes the perils of a refugee. (It does contain a racial slur and sexual violence).