Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Are the Displaced Entitled to a Haven?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Are the Displaced Entitled to a Haven?

Article excerpt

AT first glance, a small trailer parked on the lawn of the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., looks like the kind of rental van normally hitched to cars for do-it-yourself moves. But a closer inspection reveals that the logo reads not U-Haul but U-HAUS. Inside, visible through an octagonal window, walls have been painted with woodland scenes - trees, animals, birds - as if to suggest that this forest constitutes a home of sorts.

The trailer, one of more than 40 objects in the museum's Sculpture Park, is artist Jeff deCastro's way of symbolizing instability, uprootedness, homelessness. If his creation truly were a portable house instead of an artistic statement, he could find an unlimited market for it these days. Never have more people around the world been on the move or on the run, displaced - by political upheaval and natural disaster - from everything familiar and cherished, desperate for a place to call home, however temporary or humble.

Last week the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the number of refugees around the world has swelled from 30 million three years ago to 43 million today. Dramatic, haunting news photos in recent weeks tell the story of those who have suddenly been forced to join the legions of the dispossessed:

*In Bosnia, an elderly couple, surrounded by suitcases and bulging satchels, rests in a convent after fleeing their village during fighting between Croats and Muslims. Their stoic faces are a study in dignity and resignation.

*In southern Lebanon, a mother and her two children stand on the back of a truck with only a few possessions, waiting anxiously in traffic to travel north, away from Israeli artillery. At about the same time, residents of a settlement in northern Israel were boarding buses to flee south.

*And in Somalia, refugee women, one of them stretched out on the ground in apparent defiance, engage in a standoff with United States soldiers who are trying to clear them from their camp - their makeshift home away from home.

Have homes and homelands ever seemed more precious and fragile, no longer havens or birthrights that can be taken for granted? …

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