I still remember in one of my retreat break days spotting a flock of birds flying so high in the clear blue sky which was way back in the year 2017. The birds seemed unfamiliar to me. The sight was so captivating that it arose curiosity and amazement in me. I followed them till they disappeared from my sight. One of my friends said, “Those might be migrating birds migrating to spend their winter”. A thought came to my mind, ‘They might have been flying from a far-distant land. In their flight, they might have crossed several seas, mountains and different countries as well. Countries? ‘Country’ is a term that human beings invented. We have geographically marked territories for political reasons; to uphold one’s own culture, language, heritage and religion. Indeed, those migrating birds are fortunate. They need not to apply for ‘visa’ to cross a particular country. They have freedom to fly and reside wherever they want.
When we fly, we do not see the borders or boundaries that separate one country from the other as we see in the map. However, we see only huge landmass and limitless sea that merge together. Birds fly so high in freedom and cross boundaries without fear. It makes us envy them. The irony of our life is that we are still caged and envy the birds that fly with the ‘wind’. The sky and the earth belong to them. Whereas, we are restricted by boundaries.
A beautiful natural phenomenon of birds’ migration during winter, arouse my attention to the reality of the world today. I was disturbed to watch the news that flash on Social medias about Taliban again taking over Afghanistan. Many afghans in their plight to seek a haven away from the Taliban rule they were even trying to climb on the wings of US Military plane.
Many have addressed these issues of human crisis due to war and violence. Derek Walcott, one of 20th century poets of West Indies, depicts man in bestial behavior in ‘Far Cry from Africa’. There is no greatness about man. He says that animals kill each other to eat and to survive. This is a “natural law”. Animals do not kill their own kind and it would be unnatural if they do so. Human beings have turned even the unseemly animal behavior into worse beast by killing each other. Even animals come out better than an “upright man” since animals do what they must do but human beings, though equipped with rationale, seek divinity by inflicting pain on others.
War and violence have displaced people to different countries. I can in no way compare the life of the displaced people to those migrating birds. They migrate to tropical countries to enjoy the weather and hospitality of the place and then they return rejuvenated to their original home. The refugee cannot be sure of the return to their land. Their painful stories are unheard. They migrate without knowing where they are heading to. Their present and future dreams are shattered while they are left with the past which is stained and marred by war and violence.
Their present life is filled with fear and uncertainty. Women and children are the most vulnerable groups. Many have died while travelling due to hunger, sickness and so on. Sometimes the lives of the refugees evoke pity and sympathy of many but what did we do to stop this horrible violence? While thousands seek a haven, we sleep in comfortable homes peacefully. I recollect the thought-provoking lyrics of Bob Dylan who asks:
“How many ears must one man have?
Before he can hear people, cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows?
That too many people have died?”
Displacement and dislocation play an adverse effect on the life of a person. The place of birth and its surroundings have an important role to play in ones’ identity formation. When he/she is displaced from his/her own land, identity is compromised. Thus, identity remains a question mark for the refugees living in a strange land as foreigners. Can they make a home there? Or on the other hand, will they be able to recreate their homes in their own soil when they return? Perhaps, there is nothing left there – neither family members nor their belongings but a nostalgic feeling for a ‘sweet home’.
Many nations manufacture deadly weapons to amass wealth and power. The catastrophe of this business is pain and suffering. Is the country’s ‘power’ proved by its nuclear weapons? Or is everyone safe in his/her own country? Bob Dylan again questions …
“How many times must the cannon balls fly before they’re forever banned?”
If those refugees happen to spot those migrant birds, what would they feel? Envy, jealous, anger or pain? And what would those migrant birds feel looking at the refugees seeking asylum? sympathy, pity or pride?
The world has two types of history. One is of victory and another is of defeat. The history of victory talks of power, conquest, name, fame, glory and pride, and the history of defeat talks of pain, bloodshed, cruelty, surrender and migration. Children in schools must be taught to think and question “what makes a person to be a man or woman?” They must be taught to be humane and not to be a monster. I choose to carry home the history of defeat which makes me a true human being because I am affected by the pain of human suffering.
Sr. Elizabeth Rani SSpS is the Communication Coordinator of SSpS Brazil North Province. She is from India and have done B.A in English Literature.
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