This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land
There is a movement happening in Belize, where Belizeans are taking back land from delinquent foreign landowners. As in all developing countries, there are hundreds of thousands of acres in Belize owned by foreign investors. These businessmen bought the land for pennies years ago, many never stepping foot on Belizean soil. Some (many?) of them have not paid taxes on these parcels for decades; some have even died and no one has taken an interest in their foreign holdings. So Belizeans are doing their research, finding out which lands have been abandoned and petitioning the government to distribute that land to Belizeans.
I think about what it must feel like as a Belizean to have only gained independence less than 40 years ago. What's it like to know the best land is owned by British, Chinese, American millionaires, among others? To struggle to feed your children and see foreigners sweep in and lay claim to your nation. Who's land is it, really?
I just finished reading a short book, called "The Other Side." It's a collection of true stories about migrant children who have crossed into the Unites States. I worked with undocumented migrant children in the States for years, both professionally and as a foster parent. The reasons for crossing over were not new to me, nor were the dangers they described.
Reading those modern stories caused me to reflect on ancient accounts of people who fled their places of birth, facing danger, in order to survive. Joseph's family migrated to Egypt to escape famine. Moses fled Egypt to escape retribution for killing a man. The entire nation of Israel escaped slavery and oppression in Egypt, fleeing into Canaan. Mary and Joseph fled Israel with an infant Jesus when his life was in danger. Who's land is it, anyway?
There are powers at play in this world. The haves versus the have-nots. Those with power and those without. Dark spirits at play; greedy, power-hungry, with insatiable appetites for what they can possess and control.
How do people reclaim their country, their birthright, when those wielding checkbooks want it for themselves? Who's land is it, after all?
Psalm 24: 1 "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,"
The land is not ours at all, despite whatever papers claim. It is the Lord's. So, too, are those who dwell in it; each person an image-bearer of their Creator. I'm challenged and encouraged to see equity as something to aspire to, something to work toward. Equity means fairness, impartiality and balance. I'm not advocating a communist system where each person is given the same portion, regardless of their skill or character. To me, land equity means each person having what they need.
Reading God's perspective on land ownership, I support Belizeans gaining land for themselves, as well as migrant people searching for a safe place to lay their head. This land was made for you and me.