Peter knows what it is like to be displaced. “I saw the terrible things that happened to the neighbors and immediately decided to come to Uganda,” Peter shared. “My brother and I took two days to walk here. Because of my disability, I would have to walk a bit and then have to rest. My brother, Emmanuel, would carry me on his back but often would feel too faint to carry me.”
Peter is far from the only person who had his life tragically uprooted this year. For people all over the world, it has been a year of displacement.
In the middle of the night, screams from her neighbors may have woken a mother up as soldiers attacked her village. Bombs exploding in a neighboring subdivision may have forced a father to confront the cold reality that war often does not spare the innocent. Children may be living in refugee camps today – dreaming of the days when they could play soccer in the streets and see their friends in school – because war meant that their old home was no longer safe.
In 2010, according to a United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report, there were 30.8 million displaced people worldwide. Just seven years later, in 2017, this number skyrocketed to 67.5 million people.
Every single minute, of every hour, of every day between 2010 and 2017, an average of ten people fled their homes in search of safety somewhere else. That’s 598 people each hour; 14,363 people each day. Many of these families have left everything they own behind because there was no time to prepare.
When soldiers attacked Modena’s village in Myanmar, life forever changed. She lost her husband and brother, and was left to care for her eight daughters alone.
“The military burnt our house down and raped my sisters. I hid my children in the forest during this time. We stayed 8 days in the forest and 5 days on the boat. We were afraid so much. Afraid of moving. So we stayed in the forest. In Myanmar we couldn’t sleep at night, we just kept thinking, someone’s coming. Someone’s coming. Someone’s coming to kill us. At least we don’t feel that way here.”
Her story is raw and heartbreaking. Words cannot appropriately describe what this mother has gone through. Yet she is just one of the nearly 700,000 Rohingya people who have fled to Bangladesh as refugees since August 2017.
Samira’s life changed dramatically in just one morning. She was out buying breakfast for her brother when an air raid struck nearby. She was injured in an explosion and has had a permanent disability in her hand ever since. Her family narrowly escaped this horrible attack; as they fled their village on foot, fighter jets filled the skies overhead. They took refuge in a spontaneous settlement and have lived there since that fateful day. For millions in Yemen, displacement has become disconcertingly familiar.
For years, Dominic (41) was a successful dentist who owned his own hotel in South Sudan, a country that has been plagued by war and instability since its formation in 2011. In recent years, violence has intensified
“Life started changing in 2013. Many people were being killed. You would see your brothers lying on the road, dying out there,” Dominic shared.
His six children were all in good health, though he himself is HIV-positive. When the war descended upon his community, none of that mattered. He had to leave everything behind.
“On the way to Bidibidi, I came across a group of three children, aged 6, 9, and 11. They told me that their mother and father had both been killed. So I came up to the checkpoint and registered them. I already had six children, and now I have nine.”
In spite of the loss that Dominic and his family had experienced, and the health challenges he faces, he welcomed three more children into his family with open arms. For Dominic, this was a simple display of his Christian faith. “I like kids because of Christ. Staying with children, you forget about troubles.”
World Renew is thankful for the witness of people like Dominic who are showing incredible strength and resilience in the midst of crisis and demonstrating how God is building up people in local communities to bring the Kingdom of God to those living in crisis.
The suffering of those who have experienced conflict or natural disaster, breaks the heart of God. There is comfort in turning to Scripture for wisdom in how to respond to this challenging reality.
The Old Testament tells of Israel’s journey of displacement – from Egypt, to the desert, to the “promised land”, to Assyria, Babylon, and onwards. The amazing promises of Isaiah 58 are given to Israel in the midst of these times of displacement. God’s vision that they “will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations,” and that they will be called “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” are for people who understand what displacement and exile means. God did not forget the people of Israel in their time of need, and he has not forgotten those who are living in displacement today.
There is also comfort in remembering that our Savior understands displacement. When he was only an infant, his parents fled to Egypt because Herod was in search of him. In adulthood, he moved from one place to another, with “no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
We are thankful for the incredible generosity of supporters who have partnered with World Renew as we work for mercy and justice in Jesus’ name to those in need.
Please continue to pray for those, like Peter, Modena, Samira, and Dominic whose lives are filled with enormous uncertainty. It is our hope and prayer that those living in crisis would come to experience a peace that lasts.