He was a political activist, Phd. student, husband and father of six when the civil war rooted itself violently in his country. Suddenly, they were after him, hunting him down, coveting his blood, because he so vehemently opposed this rebellion. All he wanted in life was to stoke his intellectual passions, be the ideal family man and serve his Lord. Instead, life dealt him an unfair blow. Overnight, under persecution, he was forced to flee his home, leaving his family, without the hugs and kisses expected for so a long absence. No, he left without even a gesture, a goodbye, a glance. They did not even have an inkling of where he was going, because, neither did he. He boarded a ship, any ship, as a stowaway, hidden beneath the deck, his heart breaking with every wave that rocked him away from his loved ones. Throughout this entire ordeal, only his belief in Allah sustained him and nourished him. He knew that he had a greater purpose to fulfill and could not die at the hands of the evil mercenaries, but oh! the price of survival bore down heavy upon his heart. Six long years have come and gone, but still, he has not seen them.
When she left, she really didn’t believe it would be for longer than a few days, a week at most. It has been 60 years, that she has not seen her land for. She knows her life is nearing its end, but still she harbours the hope in her weakening heart to look upon her home, to breathe its air, to languish in its shade, to feel its soil between her fingers. On some days, when the pining is too much, she can close her eyes, and smell the ripe olives, ready for the picking. The trappings of everyday life surround her, it would seem to the outsider that she has settled down, that she has adopted this new home, that the past is forgotten. But, they do not know that every day is a struggle, with feelings of shame, loss and humiliation. They do not know about her dreams, about the young man she was betrothed to, before they all had to flee. They don’t know that he died, mercilessly, at the hands of the soldiers. They don’t know how often her hand extends to clutch the chain around her neck, which has the key to their would be home as a pendant, the home they would have shared in but a few days time. They don’t know that her skin still tingles at the memory of his hand in hers.
Brothers and sisters – Don’t let them become mere statistics. Our sympathy is not enough. Everyday, hundreds and thousands of people become refugees, and some remain so, till the end of their lives, memories of family and home, haunting them till the grave. We all know a refugee, I know too many. Tell their stories.
10 November 2008, Blog action day for Refugees.