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Refugees in their own country

Alaska Dispatch
April 2, 2013

According to the United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 27 million people remain
displaced by conflict inside their own homelands.
One heartbreaking story is that of the Rohingya people
in Myanmar (Burma). Members of a Muslim minority, they are denied Burmese
citizenship even though their families have lived in the country for centuries.
Enduring the ravages of ethnic violence, the Rohingyas are prohibited from
leaving designated areas for work, to forage for food, or to seek medical
treatment. Identified as “eternal outsiders,” they are denied the rights of
citizenship and human rights and are virtually forgotten by the world.
News of this situation jolted me out of my Western
comfort. I could see how much I had taken for granted my rights as a citizen of
a country such as Australia, which gives me protection from injustice and
deprivation. But the thought of the untenable position of so many people as
outsiders without a national identity challenged me to pray for a solution.
As the problem seemed overwhelmingly complex, I began
my prayers by affirming that all of God’s children are under His loving
government. Each individual as the complete expression of God has a unique
place to fulfill. I was encouraged by the way Jesus rallied his disciples with
the words, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God”
(Luke 18:27). In other words, God’s power and presence would provide whatever
was needed to find the solutions. This was a powerful way to begin my prayers.
I thought about the patriarch Isaac, who faced a
situation similar to that of the Rohingyas in Myanmar. The Bible tells us that
he had to leave his own land of Canaan because of famine, and find refuge in
Gerar, the land of the Philistines (see Genesis, Chap. 26). Isaac established
himself in his new home and became prosperous. As Isaac’s people multiplied in
numbers, Abimelech, the king of Gerar, became fearful and directed Isaac to
leave his country. This unjust action by the king revealed his belief that good
was limited and had to be protected from those of another race. As far as
Abimelech was concerned, Isaac was an outsider and had no rights or place in Gerar.
As I continued to pray, I became conscious that this
evil of limitation was one of the problems facing many countries where ethnic
violence is rampant. The material-mindedness of fear, envy, limitation, and
prejudice attempts to destroy brotherhood and take away human rights. These
rights are the natural outcome of God’s love for all His children, enabling
them to express His gift of dominion and freedom. As God is the source of all
goodness, there can be only abundance for all His creation.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, viewed
citizenship in a way that lifts it above the limitations of nations bounded by
lines on a map. In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,”
she writes, “Citizens of the world, accept the ‘glorious liberty of the
children of God,’ and be free! This is your divine right” (p. 227).
Acknowledging our world citizenship brings into sharp
focus our relationship with all people. This citizenship is all-inclusive and
allows for no sense of hate, separateness, or violence. To be a citizen of the
world means that we can accept everyone as our neighbor. Understanding the
unlimited nature of the resources that God is supplying to His creation, we can
resist the fears that would condemn another to the status of outsider. As the
Bible states, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children
shall have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26). God’s placement of His children
can never be annulled.