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Iraq's refugees: homeless but not lost

From the November 19, 2007 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

According to recent estimates, nearly five million Iraqi people may have fled their homes, uprooted by the chaos, violence, and turmoil of war. Many are still inside Iraq's borders, and are referred to as "internally displaced." More and more, however, are emigrating as refugees, straining the resources of the countries immediately surrounding Iraq. Some observers point to this disruption as the greatest mass movement in the Middle East in almost 60 years. And these are not the only refugees who have lost their homes in their flight from war zones, persecution, or crushing political and economic regimes.

In the face of such conditions, one may feel helpless as yet another statistic is presented. But it is action, not helplessness, that is truly needed. Each of us can do something genuinely helpful, even if we aren't on the scene; we can take time to pray about our global neighbors.

It's natural to want to help, and many people do this through contributions to charitable organizations such as Red Cross or Save the Children. Deciding to pray about global conditions doesn't exclude contributing financially.

But prayer is a direct contribution of the heart, an active and individual willingness to lift others' burdens through spiritual means. What you contribute in prayer grows out of your life and your specific desire to help. All of us can pray, but each of us brings something unique to that contribution. And prayer that powerfully affirms the presence of God and His infinite compassion can be felt half a world away.

Given that the refugees are identified as homeless and displaced, one thought that has helped me is to pray specifically about the spiritual basis of home, and everyone's right to experience it. Home isn't just the physical location and amenities, the neighborhood and schools—it's much more than that. Irving C. Tomlinson, who was an active member of the Christian Science movement during Mary Baker Eddy's day, recalled her saying: "Home is not a place but a power. We find home when we arrive at the full understanding of God. Home! Think of it! Where sense has no claims and Soul satisfies" (Irving C. Tomlinson, 12 Years with Mary Baker Eddy [Amplified Edition], p. 211). From this spiritual standpoint, home is based in God, not in material circumstances. Even in the midst of grim conditions of loss and despair, the reality is that each of us is spiritual and has access to God's love, which gives both satisfaction and security.

Viewed in this light, no one is homeless or at risk. And to see the world this way is not to ignore the human struggle of the refugees. In our prayers, we need to affirm that the divine All-power is present for everyone, and is a loving Father-Mother, wrapping us all in His impartial and universal grace. Here, home is really the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus promised was within us all (see Luke 17:21).


Refugees and displaced persons can be devastated when they are wrenched away from home, which is so tied to comfort, nurturing, and safety. Mary Baker Eddy in her major work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, addressed such anguish with these comforting words: "Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God" (p. 254). This helps me understand that home is actually a state of consciousness that is actively attuned to God, divine Love. To experience this radiant presence of God truly is heaven, and it includes all—not only the refugees, but everyone else also.

Wherever people are—from Iraq or Ghana to the south of France, from refugee camps in the Middle East to gated suburban communities in the United States—they are enfolded in the spiritual power of home, God's presence. We all live and move in this presence, and so does everyone else on the planet. God's goodness and love know no bounds, recognize no social or economic class, and cover all the bases.

To God, refugees and displaced persons are no less His beloved children than we are. As such, their relationship with their Father-Mother God is unbroken, and in our prayers we can support their realization of this as a present fact. Their security, viewed spiritually, derives from the infinite all-presence of God, which assures us that we can't be separated from Him. It's impossible to be a refugee from God. No one can be displaced from his or her status as God's image and likeness. This helps establish the spiritual concept of home as something nonmaterial yet resilient, providing safety and nourishment whatever the situation may be. God's all-inclusive nature assures us that no one can be left out of His care.

Prayer is a direct contribution of the heart, an active and individual willingness to lift others' burdens through spiritual means.


It's important to know that in the allness of God, nobody falls through the cracks. There is no loss of attention, no dropping off the radar screen, nobody overlooked, in the infinite Mind that is God. Sometimes the sheer volume of refugees, and their almost random movements, may suggest that their identities can be lost in the shuffle of bureaucratic paperwork and that this is normal under the circumstances. Our prayers can challenge this belief. In the allness of God, there aren't hundreds of little human minds running around with separate agendas, intricate filing systems, or favoritism. There is only one Mind, God, who already knows all. "God's eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me," an old Christian hymn comforts, and it supports the individual love and care that each one can expect now and always.

There are no wasted lives in God's sight. There's no forgotten refuse of humanity left to suffer in some inhospitable and out-of-the-way place. As we affirm that divine Love's infinity includes even the smallest infant in her mother's arms in some far-off refugee camp, we will benefit not only that mother and baby, but all humanity. There can be no overlooked cases in divine Mind's jurisdiction. Infinite Mind shows itself not only in the big picture but also in the details, bringing to light whatever needs correction or adjustment. These spiritual facts reduce the fear of becoming dehumanized, a mere number on a list.


Our brothers and sisters in these camps need to feel that they have a future—not one of doom, but of hope. Divine Life's purpose is always good, so each of Life's children is vibrant, unending, purposeful—and we can claim this in our prayers. As the reflection of God, each one expresses divine Life and can perceive opportunities for productive activity. Prayer that affirms the majesty of Life, will contribute to an improved atmosphere for all people, melting away demoralization and worthlessness. As we know—really know—that God's image and likeness is never adrift but is always expressing purposeful activity, seemingly hopeless economic and political conditions can be overcome.

A spiritual understanding of home, self-worth, and purpose is inherent in each of us as God's representatives. Our—and everyone's—true identity includes these Godlike qualities, and many more. As God's ideas, all of us are complete, not fragmented. Nor do we lose the spiritual qualities that truly define our nature. They exist now, in consciousness, and they change our lives for the better as we put them into practice. The satisfaction of Soul, God, is the kingdom of heaven itself, which is within all of us right now. ♦

Jeremy Carper is a Christian Science practitioner in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was formerly in the diplomatic corps of the US State Department for many years.

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