no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
– Warsan Shire, “Home”

According to the United Nations, “every minute 24 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, or terror.”

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
– Ibid.

Around the world there are 65.3 million forcibly displaced persons. Some 40.8 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs), who had to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their own country. Another 21.3 million of these people are refugees. Syrians, Afghans, and Somalis make up about half of the global refugee population. More than half of all refugees are children under the age of 18.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
– Ibid.

Others are asylum seekers hoping to gain refugee status.

when what you witness is not
what you had hoped, for yourself and the others
with you, unwashed bodies, smells of fear, loss,
helplessness, hunger that not even the dog on the
street experiences, huddling in the darkness as
you rise and fall on waves pounding through, praying
to any god that listens to let you stay afloat
– Shirani Rajapakse, “A Place to Call Home”

For those of us who are not IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers, what are we to do? How are we to care for these brothers and sisters?

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
– Matthew 25:35

What must it be like to leave everything you know and hold dear only to enter caverns of ominous unknowns?

when what you look forward to is not
what you get on arrival,
the snaking lines, the wait, the taunts, the beating,
razor sharp wires that brand your attempts to scramble out,
the sneers and most of all the looks of contempt.
– Shirani Rajapakse, “A Place to Call Home”

What must it be like to carry only hope and have it confiscated over and over again?

no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
– Warsan Shire, “Home”

For those of us who are not IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers, what are we to do? How are we to care for these brothers and sisters?

“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
– Hebrews 13:1-2

What words can we use to convey that we see angels before us, not threats? That we see new friends, good intentions, welcomed embodiments of Christ before us?

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
– Ibid.

For those of us who are not IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers, what are we to do? How are we to care for these brothers and sisters? How can we remember to offer hospitality, as we would hope to receive if we found that the homes that used to keep us safe had become mouths of sharks, barrels of guns?

June 20 marks World Refugee Day.

How will you honor the people forcibly displaced from their homes, their livelihoods, their sense of security?

Can you take one minute to remember what 24 people are experiencing during those 60 seconds? What if they were your friends? What if you were among them?

Can you take another minute or two to support efforts that benefit refugees?

Contribute to the work with refugees of Church World Service, Catholic Relief Services, or one of the many other international organizations extending hospitality and care to displaced persons around the globe.

How can you reach out to refugees in your local community?