Taking Refuge: Vows & Syria

Warmongering generally makes for a fiery and fiesty discussion these days.   Bombs and war and the legacy of western decisions rests as a different burden upon this generation.  A problem that we’re less sure of and less comfortable with.  We’re more aware then ever before of global injustices and the preservation of  interests on the world stage in the name of grand old visions like democracy, freedom and rescue.  We’ve learnt that violence is actually about a lack of trust and hope or an absence of commitment to run things differently.  Disappointingly when listening to What Syria Means for Britain (well worth a listen) the programme didn’t ask questions about how you do decision making and use change models when violence is critiqued and thought about differently; instead it focussed more on how does a desire for violence get stirred up again?  It’s an uncomfortable risk and possibility that violence is peddled as necessary, worthy, honourable and inevitable. Relationships without violence require radical mutuality and respect and we live in a world of too much hierachy, discrimination and fear  that is maintained by those who have enough perspective and money to know bettter.   A dream of non-violence remains a dream while we view leadership as power, authority and directive consequence.

As a plump western female, sitting in my warm house, waking each morning in my blissful bed, beside and close to my loved ones with ridiculous options for each and every day, I’ve taken to feeling a little nauseous each morning when my mind turns to (and I try to make myself dwell there for a while – I found this map really helpful) those who are not only homeless, but restless and placeless.  If anything should change the world it’s poverty, it’s humanitarian crises, the gravest crisis in 20 years, it’s 2 million people (among millions of others) who’ve lost themselves and each other in the past year.   We’ve lost our taste for refugees, hearing about millions of people fleeing to live in mud, noise and crowds doesn’t mean the same as it used to when we first saw new images projected around the world – we’re in a refugee stupor, we’ve become numb and we’ve stopped empathising, we’ve stopped thinking what would it be like to leave all I have, everyone I know, everything I am?  To have no carpet, no water, no containers for food, no freedom, no clothese for different seasons, no calendar in your head in which you can pencil in plans and ideas.

I had the sweet privilege of watching two friends make vows together a couple of weeks ago and within their ceremony they took what they called refuges together.  These refuges were their vows, their vision and their values for them as people and their relationship and their families.  It struck me that this intimate relationship between two people saying let’s be and make each other ‘safe’ and give each other ‘place’ in a micro sense highlights the risks of taking refuge together and the vulnerability and the grand violence and theft of other’s safety when there is no refuge to be had.  We all bear some relationship to the placeless, if only because we may have our place and our safety and that makes those who are seeking refuge ‘other’ and ‘outside’.

I grew up in a faith tradition whose scriptures speaks beautifully, ethically and repeatedly of the alien and the ‘other’.  Unfortunately  this tradition spends too little time  exploring and exegeting what these scriptures could inspire when it comes to how we seek out, identify and uphold and bestow honour and inheritance on those who are alien and ‘outside’ in our communities.

Right now refugees are never from from my thoughts.  I feel that energy discussing war and power is somehow misdirected.

Help has become an absent word and replaced with threat.

Refugees are leaving because they are scared.  Our help should be radical, subversive and unpredictable – as should our hope.

I don’t know if time discussing politics and money spent on war might be better used to plot a helping revolution – this generation, the one that is hardest to lead, may be the one who can call for that but I really am not quite sure how.

I feel powerless and uninfluential.  But perhaps we all could consider finding something more out about the work being done with refugees and doing what we can whether it is raising awareness and or funds.

(Whilst this piece is about Syria, I am not oblivious to the thousands of refugess and asylum seekers being appallingly treated by our systems, government and communities across the UK.)

UK charities are working right in the refugee camps across Europe and the Middle East:

There is  petition, up to date blogs and and opportunity to donate here – Oxfam

The Syrian Exodus – Tearfund

1 Million Children – UNHRC

Further reading:

Open Our Borders – The Independent

A Psuedo-Struggle – The Guardian

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