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…
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
“Home” by Warsan Shire
In Exodus 2 we read the story of a mother who defied the laws of the country in which she lived and saved the life of her son. She made the painful choice to send him down the river in a papyrus basket covered in pitch, hoping for a miracle.
That miracle came in the form of the daughter of the Pharaoh who took compassion on the child and called him her own.
The images and headlines of children detained at the border are hard to see. While these kids have just arrived, the story they are living out is very old. The end of their journey has not yet been written.
It hasn’t been written because it isn’t just their story. It is our story, too.
We are the children of Pharaoh. We are the ones living in a place of privilege. We might not have made these laws and decisions ourselves, but we are party to them and have benefited from the system that has created them.
Will our ears be open to hear the cry of the children? Will we search for the source of those tears?
We have a responsibility to help those at our doorstep. But compassion and pity is not enough. As the words in the poem by the Somali refugee poet, Warsan Shire remind us, many of those who come to our border did not want to flee their home. They left because home had become like the mouth of a shark. They put their children in boats, or try and swim across rivers with them in hand, because they believe it is safer than the land.
Ours calling is to question Pharaoh. The act of compassion was only necessary because of the injustice of Pharaoh’s decrees in the first place.
May our hearts be moved not just to decry the terrible conditions and treatment toward these children seeking hope and safety, but to the injustices that have caused them to flee in the first place.
We can play the part of Pharaoh’s daughter after the damage has been done, but also seek to stop the injustice before it starts.