Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,
This Christmas, the story of Jesus’ flight to Egypt (as recorded in Matthew 2), bears new insight when viewed through the lens of our hurting region Jesus began his life in a situation similar to what Iraqi and Syrian children refugees are experiencing today. Having escaped death towards an unknown future, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were refugees.
While celebrating Christmas this year, I would like to invite you to view The Holy Family through this lens, perhaps leading to a deeper appreciation of what the Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis are experiencing.
Jesus, as a young boy, like the Iraqi children, experienced the pain of fleeing a bloody land where the innocent were being slaughtered. He saw the fear in His mother’s eyes as his family fled at night, hurriedly and quietly under the cover of darkness for fear of discovery.
Joseph knew he had to travel with Mary to Bethlehem for the census, but he didn’t know he had to go into exile. Similarly, the people of the Nineveh valley knew of the imminent threat of ISIS to their cities, and prepared food supplies for a time where they expected to be under siege. Yet like Joseph, they were not prepared to go into exile! Imagining myself in Joseph’s shoes, I’m sure he was thinking of how to provide for his family as refugees. Meeting several refugee fathers in the ME, this is always at the forefront of their thoughts.
How many young mothers in Iraq and Syria had to travel like Mary, a few days before giving birth or shortly after delivery? It must have been harrowing and extremely tiring for them as it was for Mary, having to walk from Mosul to a safe place in Kurdistan, or packed in a little car on the long way south to Jordan? What kind of fear did they experience with the thought that at any moment, Herod’s men- I mean ISIS- could seize them and kill their babies?!
The Holy Family in Egypt must have felt what our brothers and sisters are experiencing today where they are relocated, not knowing what their future holds and how they will manage meeting their immediate needs. It is indeed a wonderful thing for Egypt, my country, to have provided refuge for the baby Jesus. But undoubtedly, the Holy Family must have been met with both kindness and unkindness on their journey, as did the Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
According to a recent count done by the UN, Kurdistan is hosting a total of 1.4 million displaced people. This figure is not less in Jordan, including refugees from the civil war in neighboring Syria. Some of them are brothers and sisters in Christ, while many have never yet heard of how much Jesus loves them.
Please join us in praying that while we are striving to help them with the donations we are receiving, many would find refuge in the story of Jesus, the refugee who identified with their suffering. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15) for “surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4).