Stars and the Refugees

“Stars, in your multitude, scarce to be counted, filling the darkness with order and light. You are the sentinels, silent and sure, keeping watch in the night…keeping watch in the night.”
From “Stars,” Les Miserables

In many situations around the world, the last thing a refugee sees before making his or her final escape is the sight of smoke or flames in the night sky.

In even more situations, that night sky is their only hope.

Celestial navigation is an ancient science that has led soldiers to the place of battle, magi to a manger and refugees to a safe border crossing place. Since some refugees have to travel at night, stars play an important part in walking, running, swimming, boating to freedom.

To know what it’s like to lean on the stars is to know what it’s like to be a refugee in motion. The uncertainty of where exactly you are, the fear of wild animals and corrupt guides, and the tension between hoping the moon will be out so you can see and hoping it won’t be out so that you can navigate.

The World Refugee Survey found that 33 million people are currently uprooted from their homes. Of these, 12 million are refugees and asylum-seekers, and another 21 million are Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) who are facing extreme persecution but remain in their own countries.

Every day, men and women risk their lives and the possibility of becoming slaves in order to cross the border from North Korea into China. Every day some are caught and sent back to prison camps for execution, and even more are trafficked as sex slaves throughout Asia. Iraq has the fastest-growing refugee numbers. In Colombia, 2.9 million people have been displaced. In Sudan, the number is 5.3 million.

Refugees’ relationships with stars vary – sometimes stars are one of many constants in their refugee camp. Sometimes the stars are their only guide to freedom. Sometimes the stars have been triangular patches they wear to identify themselves to their oppressors.

No matter what stars represented to them in their escape and resettlement, we can make it possible for them to have an entirely different experience when they finally – usually after years of application work and untreated traumas – land on our soil. Even simple, small efforts to help refugees find home can help assure them that stars will be, one day, symbols of peace and rest as they should be.

Join in!

How have stars been a blessing or help to you?

What do you think would be the hardest part about depending on the night sky for navigation in a life and death situation?

Share any other ideas or thoughts here!

Further resources:

American Refugee Committee International has some great ideas/opportunities for people who want to serve refugees, particularly abroad.

Church World Service has an amazing refugee co-sponsorship program across the US. You and your congregation can befriend a refugee in a personal and meaningful way with their help.

Outcasts United, by Warren St. John, is an excellent and entertaining book that deals well with the complexities of the refugee experience. I highly recommend it to soccer fans, Atlanta residents, bleeding hearts and anyone else who wants to know more.

4 Responses to “Stars and the Refugees”
  1. Joan says:

    Stars have always reminded me that there is a mighty God who knows the number of starts in the universe and yet knows the number of hairs on my head. To me, stars represent the awesomeness of God.

  2. Michael says:

    Job 22:12 “Is not God high in the heavens? See the highest stars, how lofty they are!”

    I would love to learn to navigate by the stars. I would have no idea how to do it.

  3. Darrell says:

    Joan is right in her statement that the stars reveal the awesomeness of God,but absent God they reveal just how meaningless and insignificant we really are. Absent God the atheists are correct and we are no more or less than a gnat or a rat, just a little more evolved. Why don’t species evolve at the same or even approximate rates, but that’s another doscussion. The stars guide navigators primarily on the high seas. Ancient mariners used sextants to navigate by the stars while sailing the vast oceans. Caravens crossing the deserts and steppes did the same. Now, sextants aren’t necessary because of global satellite navigation, but midshipmen at the Naval academy are still taught navigation just in case. But my point is that there is a God and the heavens cite the evidence of his glory. The stars and the heavens give us much evidence of his existence. For example although the sun and moon when full appear to be the same size in the sky, the sun is exactly 400 times the size of the moon. It would take 400 moons lined up side by side to reach across the diameter of the sun. Because of exactly the same size appeasrance, when the moon is between the earth and sun we have a total eclipse of the sun as the moon completely covers it. This is because the sun is exactly 400 times further from the earth than is the moon. This example is from a book by Bonnie Gaunt called “Beginnings the Sacred Design” and I havent’t done justice to her work but I highly recommend this book. It is amazing and fascinating. Finally, the stars tell us that in all this vast universe where he hung billions and perhaps trillions of stars, we are important because he loves us.

  4. Claire says:

    I definitely feel awe when looking at the night sky. I find the ocean to be an absolutely terrifying thing, but perhaps because I’m never really IN the night sky, I don’t fear it. I can’t imagine navigating the ocean with only the stars… terrifying, and yet I can only imagine that the sky, when surrounded by nothing but water to reflect that sky, is even more awesome than it is on land. I’ll leave that to the sailors though.

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