What is home? Maybe home is the place you were born or the place you live now. Maybe home is where your family is. Or maybe you have not found a home yet. I believe many of us would have different responses. And I believe that despite all the differences, there would be a core truth to every definition: home is where you belong.
Belonging can mean that you are safe, that you are known, that you are needed, that you are wanted. Belonging is never found in isolation but often with community. Belonging is of the human heart and is a desire that all people share, all over our beautiful world.
An Eritrean man once told me that his first life was back in Eritrea. His first birth, his first journey and his first home were all back in the place he was born. “Now,” he said, “this is my second life. Here, in Canada. I have been reborn. This is my home now.” Many refugee newcomers find community, friends and even family in their new place of settlement. Despite all they have left behind, they are looking to a new place, a new start to their life, a new home.
“I didn’t unpack my suitcase for years. I had a new apartment and I enjoyed living in Canada. But I wanted to be ready. Ready for when the chance came for me to go back home.” She wanted to make the best of her new life in Canada. But ‘home’ for her was not here. Yes, she was safe and she was no longer living in fear. But home was not in Canada. It was where she came from, where she felt she belonged, where her family was, where her heart was.
Fathers have had to tear up their passports. Mothers have had to flee with no family pictures. Families have had to run from something that was so good, so safe . . . so at home. And I think we forget the journey. We climb over the past, what was left behind, and camp in optimism. We assume a new life means a new home. And I fear we expect refugee newcomers to feel at home here.
Another man once told me that in his language, there is no word for refugee. Someone displaced and fleeing their home is called a passenger. My prayer is that all refugee newcomers find their home again. That you and I can find our home. And as we do, may we greet other passengers on their way, delighted that we saw them, honoured to know them and hopeful that in their journey, home will once again be found.