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By Angelique Walker-Smith
“When I think of home, I think of place where there's love overflowing. I wish I was home. I wish I was back there with the thing I've been knowing… I've learned that we must look inside our hearts to find a world full of love like yours, like mine, like home.”
In 1974, Charlie Smalls wrote those words for the musical hit, “The Wiz,” which was a theatrical version of the classic film, “The Wizard of Oz.” Both the film and musical address the question of where is home and what does home mean to a young girl who leaves her birth home in Kansas for an unfamiliar imaginary place.
Today, men, women, and children are faced with this same question but the places they find themselves don’t often match up to their vision of a land of hope and opportunity. Rather, many find themselves in places where once again they are experiencing hunger and poverty – but this time they are in an unfamiliar and unwelcoming country. There are 250 million migrants worldwide.
The 2017 Hunger Report points out that many of these new arrivals come from fragile states. While there is no universal definition of fragility, the report has a focus on nations where high rates of hunger and poverty are compounded by civil conflict, poor governance, and vulnerability to climate change as factors of fragility. These factors present the greatest challenge in ending hunger and poverty. Conflict is one of the greatest threats to ending hunger. Any country can have fragile regions or communities.
Still, these challenges are not new to people of faith. Vulnerable communities are part of the sacred stories highlighted in scripture. Floods (Genesis 7:7), drought (1 Kings 17:7-9), famine and vulnerability of women (Ruth 1-5), political instability (1 Samuel 21:10), ethnic struggles (Acts 18:1-2), and religious persecution (Acts 8, 11, 12) have affected people throughout the ages. Stories such as Joseph being sold into slavery (Genesis 37:28) or Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt to escape violence and death (Matthew 2:13-14) are key to the arc of our biblical narrative.
This leaves us with the question of what should be the response of people of faith today? First, we are reminded that many who are seeking new homes are people of faith. Second, their faith has helped make them resilient and courageous. This, despite the challenges they face in the nations of their birth and the new places where they arrive.
As people of faith, we are invited to come alongside of those most affected and show hospitality. An important way of doing this is by advocating for policies that provide international development and famine relief funding in the fiscal year 2018 budget, and also supporting immigration reform such as the Dream Act of 2017.
When we do this we, like the characters in “The Wiz,” we advance the hope of a home for all.
Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.
As people of faith, we are invited to come alongside of those most affected and show hospitality.
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