A family on the road
Two small figures on an unknown road, a child in their arms, running from the promise of slaughter. One of the first images of Christianity: an image of fear, of a world over almost before it has begun.
Two thousand years on, the feet of the women of the Ankawa camp bear witness to a similar journey. They know what it is to leave their homes, to hear the whispers of rumour, to feel the cold dropping of dread from the hot summer skies, to bear your family and your history on your back as you run.
For their faith they had to flee.
They had heard the stories from other families who had fled before: the stories from Mosul and the other towns to the south and the west; fleeing from ISIS; fleeing because they believed in the hope of the Nativity and the salvation through Jesus Christ.
Their hope, that they may be safe, now gone. They fled. Their husbands remained to protect their homes, waiting for the cloud of dust on the horizon, the echoes of explosions. Waiting, in the homes lived in by their families for centuries.
Their husbands stand with them at the flaps of their tents now. They are no longer apart. But it was not trucks and tanks and hostile boots that reunited them. As the women ran for safety, as the men looked to the ends of the roads, it was their neighbours who defeated them. With their wives gone, with their families fractured, it was their neighbours, the people they had grown up with, the people who made their community a home: it was their naighbours who stole their houses, their livestock, their possessions, their money, even their mobile phones - they stole them and told the men to run.
But the Holy Family do return. They return to their town in Galilee, their home, and they take up the trades they knew before, they are family once more - James, John, Elizabeth - their relations around them. Thirty years of quiet and contentment.
Will these families, standing at the mouths of the tents, ever go home? That is what we, safe in the West, have to ask this Christmas as our brothers and sisters in the Middle East face a future as exiles.
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