Picture this, today, somewhere in Greece or Sweden, or the United States: Seven hundred people crammed into a camp of loosely arranged, narrowly separated plywood-patched and canvas-covered huts next to a mud-shored pond of fetid water. Living off donated date-expired food prepared over coffee-can sized kerosene stoves that double as space heaters. The children are being taught in loosely organized groups by volunteer camp residents, while adults gather in small clusters for discreet conversations and gossip that serve as community forums, with no one allowed to leave the razor-wired perimeter and handfuls of escapees returning daily. All of them sharing the same less than private bathing, toilet and suspect sanitation facilities, everyone — even the returning escapees — considering themselves lucky to be there.
Many of their family and friends have died trying to get this far. None of them want to go back. All of them are more afraid of what they have left behind than of what lies ahead.
They are people of many races and many faiths, coming from many nations, no few from places where their neighborhoods, their cities, their countries have been taken over by thugs. They come from homes where there were modern kitchens and sparkling bathrooms, fresh clean water from the tap and lights at the flip of a switch. Where their closets were full of the latest clothes, their dresser drawers stuffed with heirlooms and keepsakes, their walls covered with family photos and flat screen TVs.
Waking up with nothing to do is still something foreign in their lives. They are used to going to their jobs, maintaining their homes, dealing with the daily bustle of lives including evenings with friends, framed around their children’s school schedules, impulse shopping and the things one does while building a life around a family home.
And now they sit, and wait, and sometimes try to escape. Not to go back, but to go forward. To places that have already made it clear they will not be welcome. Because some where they are going have found more currency in portraying them as pariahs than as the next new wave of immigration. And the pariah-makers have made others afraid.
And all of them — every single one — is ready, willing and able to risk their lives, their lost fortunes, and the most valuable thing they possess — their honor — to prove they are worthy of being part of those who will not have them.
However we declare our faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Tao, Shinto, or a faith we in our limited human journey do not yet know, let us pray were are not counted among those who close our doors.
Rev. Sichta’s column. The Rev. Dr. Robert Sichta, Congregational United Church of Christ, 3700 26th St. W., Bradenton, can be reached by calling 941-756-1018 or emailing PBKAlpha1@gmail.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.