A home is not the same as a house. You can live or stay in a house and it is not a home. You can possibly live in a house many years and yet it never becomes a home. Home, the ancient expression goes, is where the heart is. While that might have become rather twee, the subject of greeting cards with sickly illustrations, as with many clichés, it contains an essential truth.

Think, for a moment, of your own home, what you really call home. Perhaps it is somewhere you left many years ago but deep-down long to return to. Maybe that is where you were truly happy, or last truly happy. It could be in another land and you are, in some sense, in exile. On all my visits to Iraq, from my first visit in early 2015 and many subsequent visits, one of the things that has struck me most powerfully is the painful sense so many of the Christians have of being removed from their home. It was not just their physical dwellings they lost when Islamists drove them out from the Nineveh Plain, making them refugees in their own country, but their connection with their history and heritage. Their families had lived in that place, not just for generations, but for millennia, certainly many of them since apostolic times.

In the West, that powerful connection to place, and the feel of abandonment and loss when it goes, is less easy to understand, or at least less tangible, because life is so fluid now. Is that the reason why so many feel lost and estranged in some way, although they can’t put their finger on why they feel that sense of being lost or out of place? Many of the addictions and compulsions which control and captivate so many people, whether it is drink or drugs, sexual promiscuity or the desire just to avoid deep thought and commitment to anything, can be traced back to that primordial feeling, buried deep down, that we have lost our home.

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