THOUGHTS FOR PRAYER
We are called to help the refugees
Today’s media seems to be consumed with images of countries rattled by explosives, people dying of hunger, families fleeing from their homes holding onto mere ounces of hope that they will live to see tomorrow. As Americans, many of us have started to become desensitized to these tragedies, as we are not experiencing them first hand. It is easy to say that refugees are terrorists and, as a recourse, are not welcome in our country, but what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if we were the refugees seeking a safe haven to protect our families and our livelihood?
Unfortunately, the refugee crisis that is shaking the globe is something that most Americans are not well educated on. Media coverage shows only one side of the story. The Syrian refugee crisis is a direct result of the violence surrounding the Syrian civil war, the country’s shattered infrastructure, and fear for the well-being of Syrian families. Millions of Syrians are displaced and lacking basic needs all while living in compact, unsanitary desert camps with their families in spaces much too small for them.
The Syrian Civil War, which began in March of 2011, started as a result of the Syrian government opening fire on Pro-Democracy demonstrators. By July, the opposition intensified, and locals began to take up arms against the government security forces occupying their homes.
Soon a rebel force took shape, and the use of chemical warfare came into play, further intensifying the war. According to reports from the United Nations, 250,000 casualties have occurred since 2011. In addition, 6.5 million people are internally displaced; 4.5 million are in areas that are hard to reach with humanitarian aid, and about 12 million Syrians are labeled as refugees.
To put this in perspective, more than half of Syria’s population has been displaced; the equivalent of everyone living in New York City and Los Angeles becoming homeless. The Islamic extremist group ISIS also claims territory in Syria.
As a result of the ongoing issues in Syria, millions of people are displaced, having lost everything they had, and living in dehumanizing conditions. The United States government has been having discussions on policies deciding whether or not to permit refugees in the U.S. Because of the United States’ political influence and the increasing number of terrorist attacks within the States, Americans tend to be against accepting refugees into our country.
As both a Christian and an American, I see two sides to this issue. As an American, I understand the fear of terrorism increasing the acceptance of refugees, because of the presence of extremist groups like ISIS in Syria. There is virtually no way to differentiate one person to the next and their intentions in the U.S. However, as a Christian, my perspective shifts based on my beliefs.
According to Open Doors, a missions organization focused on “serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” since the beginning of the Syrian war, over 7.6 million Christians have been displaced that were living in Syria. Our Christian and non-Christian brothers and sisters are without a home, because of the outpouring of violence from their country. Most of these refugees are fleeing the only place they have ever known with nothing but the clothes on their back. Their friends and family are being murdered before their eyes. The blood and tears of God’s children are crying out for help.
So, what is our role as a Christian in America, when our Syrian brothers and sisters are suffering so greatly? World Vision reminds us that “As a child, Jesus was forced to flee with His family to escape violence perpetrated by a dictator who was willing to slaughter children to protect his own position. Certainly, Jesus can understand the plight of Syrian refugees.” God created all humans in his image; the imago Dei. Because God loves and cares for his people, we should love and care for refugees.
Looking to scripture, we can see our mandate to care for the suffering refugee in the following verses:
- “This is what the Lord says: Do what is fair and right. Save the one who has been robbed of the power of his attacker. Don’t mistreat or hurt the foreigners, orphans, or widows. Don’t kill innocent people here.” Jeremiah 22:3 NCV
- “”…Let those of us who were forced out of Moab live in your land. Hide us from our enemies.” The robbing of Moab will stop. The enemy will be defeated; those who hurt others will disappear from the land. Then a new loyal king will come; this faithful king will be from the family of David. He will judge fairly and do what is right.” Isaiah 16:4-5 NCV
- ““Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has given you his blessing. Receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made. I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your house. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then the good people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our house? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ “Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 NCV
As Christians, I believe that we are called to help the refugees; whether that means physically aiding them, giving them somewhere else to call home, or praying without ceasing. We should not sit on the sidelines and ignore the reality of the situation simply because it is happening on the other side of the world. Though reconciling this within our cultural context may be difficult, I feel that we are to stand above culture and see the imago Dei amidst the suffering of humanity.