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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

The recent earthquake in West Sumatra has opened another window into the quest for home after disasters. Annually, throughout the world, there are 40 million displaced people who move from one place to another in the quest for a safe home free from natural or humanitarian disasters.

Some people travel to a nearby village or city, while others travel far away to the other side of the globe. Whatever the reasons for the migration are and wherever they finally decide to reside are as important as how the world should treat them and why a quest for home is the ultimate search in one’s lifetime.

For those reasons alone, we should respect and assist natural and humanitarian displaced people and refugees. Policies should be based on an underlying philosophy that human beings must be equally respected and human rights must be guaranteed regardless of circumstances. Business practices should reflect and adhere to such paradigms.

Personally, being an immigrant in a foreign land allows me to experience firsthand what a quest for home is. Safety and acceptance are two of the most important elements, without which a “home” is not a home. And by “home” one does not merely refer to a house or an apartment, but a place to stand without having to bend simply for survival.

In the United States, more than 18,700,000 houses are now unoccupied and an estimated 7,000,000 more houses will be foreclosed in 2010 and 2011. These former house owners are victims of a policy disaster, even though they probably can still rent apartments temporarily. But still, those who lost their jobs might find it quite impossible to find a decent place to live, despite America’s image of a wealthy and orderly nation.

We can see how the search for a home is an endless quest. Those who experience persecution and natural catastrophes are likely to find a “home” is a place where they can take a deep breath without worrying whether their lives are in danger as a result of “well founded fears.” Those who already had a home but for some reason became victims of irresponsible public and economic policies are likely to search for a place where they can feel secure for a few years without having to worry about sudden jumps in mortgage payments and shockingly devalued house prices.

In the end, everybody is searching for a peaceful home, where family members have their favorite spots and a sense of belonging. While this is the ideal notion of a home, the society should promote that these ideals at heart and home should flourish. After all, homes are the pillars of a society and a nation. When a home is safe and secure, the family members are nourished mentally and physically, which is crucial to a healthy nation. A good home both creates and is created by people who coexist with each other in mutual respect. Both western and eastern cultures concur on this concept.

Limited budget or poverty at the level of states and people have been the typical excuses for delays in providing assistance to disasters in Indonesia. Blame it on having very limited resources and poor transportation, yet these aren’t the underlying issues. The focus should be on reminding policy makers about the importance of respecting the notion of home being a safe and secure place to grow.

Therefore, a “home” comprises the house construction itself that should be sturdy enough to endure regular climate conditions and designed to cope with specific local disaster preparedness for the people who reside in it, fitting in also with the socio-political and economic environment where the home is located, and providing the spiritual aspects of a stable home.

The notion of “home” thus should be seen as a connector to the outside world. Each home is a part of something bigger and eventually the largest domain is the universe. It is always harder to sustain the notion of equilibrium and peacefulness rather than breaking them asunder with corrupt thoughts and ill-willed political maneuvers. But just like a broken pot can be glued back with the right substance, a home is built and maintained when we make the best of what is available, even after a terrible shock.

May our quest for home be fulfilled.[]

The Jakarta Post, October 12, 2009

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