We’ve seen the footage on TV: desperate men, women and children fleeing faraway wars in the Middle East. Families caught up in the chaos and squalor of refugee camps. Dangerous border crossings. Our news feeds are filled with calls to help, to be involved, to donate. But we feel helpless. The problem seems so big and so far away.
But it’s not so far away! Refugees are settling right here, right now. And not just from Syria. There are families across this country that have fled mass murder and torture in Burundi, forced recruitment and rape in South Sudan, religious persecution in Bhutan, and much, much more.
If your heart is stirred by this, don’t let politics, Facebook debates or “compassion fatigue” prevent you from doing something. The ongoing controversy over immigration policy does not absolve us of the responsibility to “treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you and … love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).
You might have strong opinions about the process by which refugees arrive in this country, but the fact remains that even under the most restrictive policies, many thousands of new refugees are settled in America every year. They’re already here.
And while resettlement in the U.S. is a “happy ending” of sorts for families that have endured war, rape, famine, persecution and worse, it also introduces them to an entirely new set of challenges. Imagine for a moment what it would be like for you and your family to be relocated to a foreign country where you didn’t understand the language or the customs, and where you didn’t know anyone. What if your family got on a plane tonight and woke up tomorrow in Kabul or Mogadishu or Kinshasa or Yangon?
Even if these were peaceful, stable locations, which they are not, how would you get by? How would you find a job? Navigate public transportation? Even just ask for directions?
Government assistance can only go so far. The current refugee crisis represents a unique opportunity for the church – and for concerned individuals and families – to step forward and demonstrate the love of Christ. This means offering practical assistance, but also – and perhaps even more importantly – extending love, friendship and a welcoming embrace to those whose lives have been turned upside down.