Human Rights People Refugees & Immigration Reform

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Through The Eyes of A Child: My 9 Year Old Daughter Olivia Weighs In On The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Olivia writing on the Syrian Refugee Crisis from a kid's perspective
Olivia writing on the Syrian Refugee Crisis from a kid’s perspective

Little Children Could Show Us The Way

Yesterday I was wrapping up my blog on the Syrian refugee crisis from the perspective of an immigration attorney and my daughter Olivia sat with me the entire time and watched me work.  I explained to her that I was trying to help people have a better understanding of how important it is for us to continue to help refugees who are suffering and that we have the right facts about how we screen them coming into this country so we can be safe.

I explained to her that these suffering people are running from ISIS, civil war, persecution, hunger, death and misery.  I told to her that a lot of people in our nation are afraid to let them into our country because they think some of them might be bad people like ISIS who are disguised as refugees.  I asked Olivia to give me her opinion as a child as to what she thought we as a nation should do about the suffering Syrian refugees who need our help.  Keep in mind she only nine years old, but you see her heart come through.  Often we lose that heart as we get older. Here is what she come up with.

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Hi! My name is Olivia,

I am here too talk about what I think people could do to help the Syrian Refugees. Maybe we could build big shelters and take about nine big planes get the Refugees! The shelter needs lots of toys and fun stuff for the kids. Food and beds for everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

Here is why I think we need to let Refugees in the U.S.A.

  1. They are people.
  2. They are struggling and suffering.
  3. Their lives are at risk.
  4. Everybody needs people looking out for each other because we are all God’s children and God’s children are brothers and sisters and this means everyone is important.

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 Olivia reminds us in a childlike way that God designed humanity to be a global family.  A family that looks out for each other.  God has a dream for this world.  Part of his dream is “peace on earth and good will towards all people.”  He dreams of the hungry being fed, the naked being clothed and the weakest among us being taken care of by the strongest.

Unfortunately, I do not hear many sermons on this from the pulpits these days.  Perhaps we just do not believe those words any more or is it possible that we just do not trust or believe in the raw message of Jesus to be a viable answer to deep needs of our world today.

As I read and reflected on Olivia’s comments, I thought I would include a photo album of these precious suffering Syrian refugees who Olivia believes are our brothers and sisters who deeply need our help.  Take some time to look them in the eyes and see them with your hearts.  Say a prayer for them and maybe make a donation to a group that is trying to help them.

God bless.

The Most Powerful Photographs of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in 2015

 I share in the these three blogs below some practical ways you can help the Syrian refugees if you are interested.

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How Antoine Leiris Responds To Death of His Wife In The Paris Terrorist Attacks

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.16.44 AMOne of the big questions before us is how are we going to live our lives in light of the Paris Terrorist attacks and the future threats ISIS has made towards all people of good will.  Will we choose the path of fear and anger?  I think so many people are tired of being afraid.  Or will we choose the path of love and hope?

A wise man named John, who was the youngest disciple of Jesus said, “Fear has torments, but perfect love casts out all fear.”  The Apostle Paul said, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”  These are wise words for terrible realities of our times.

Antoine Leiris, the father of a 17 month year old son, lost his lovely wife in the Paris terrorist attacks.  In this short BBC video he tells ISIS how he feels about the death of his wife and how he will live his life as he moves forward.  This is a powerful story.  I hope it encourages you.  How Antoine Responds To The Terrorists Who Murdered His Wife

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What Would Jesus Do About the Syrian Refugee Crisis: An Evangelical Christian Response

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 5.39.53 PMJesus Message & Evangelical Faith

Coming from an Evangelical Christian background I grew up having a deep respect for the Bible. After being a follower of Jesus for almost 40 years I have come to the conclusion that we as Christians in this country either take the words of Jesus seriously or we become atheists. I cannot stomach a Christian faith that teaches me to love God, but turn my neighbor away if he or she is an atheist, Muslim, Gay or a Syrian refugee.

I want a Christianity that is real. I want a living faith I can sink my teeth into.  Many of my Evangelical brothers and sisters are putting their lives, resources, and reputations on the line as they serve the marginalized and hurting of this world. Their love knows no borders nor do they discriminate as they serve unconditionally.  There are others, however, who seem to have forgotten what Jesus said about loving our neighbor, helping the suffering and stranger among us and those desperately trying to survive on the margins of of our society and in war zones around the world. Our Lord said:

For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I WAS A STRANGER, AND YOU INVITED ME INTO YOUR HOME.  I was naked and you gave me clothing.  I was sick, and you cared for me.  I was in prison, and you visited.

No Christian who claims to be a follower of Jesus can get around these words. They are either true or they are not. What we do with Jesus command determines whether or not we are his followers.

The Politics of Jesus

I have been studying the Bible all my life.  I have a bachelors degree in Pastoral Studies and Philosophy, a Masters of Divinity, and an earned doctorate that I completed in 2013.  I was an Evangelical minister for 18 years.  I am familiar with this wonderful book called the Bible.  As an Evangelical I was taught that the Bible was to be read through the centrality of Christ’s teaching, but as I look at the political landscape of Christians both on the Right and the Left I am convinced that if Jesus ran for public office and declared his domestic and foreign policies we would destroy him in the media as a dreamer and idealist. We would probably declare that his message is not relevant to American life today.

Jesus made it clear as to what he believed was the most important central truth of the entire Bible.  He said that we must love the Lord our God with all our being, love our neighbor as ourselves, treat other people the way we want to be treated and if we find an enemy we should try to turn him into a friend.  There is no way around this.  I believe Jesus message applies even if my neighbor is an atheist, Muslim, Gay, or a Syrian refugee who needs a home and a sanctuary.  We just cannot get around the politics of Jesus.  The Mennonites have been saying this for 500 years.

Applying Jesus Message To The Syrian Crisis

So what do with do with the 4 million Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives from ISIS, president Assad and now the Russians? My friend Lynne Hybels, a leading Evangelical humanitarian, peacemaker and human rights activist has written an outstanding article on how Christians and other concerned human beings can follow Jesus by helping our desperate brothers and sisters whose lives have been destroyed by the war in Syria.  I strongly encourage you to open your hearts and minds to what she has to say and ask God how you can follow Jesus in helping these refugees in very relevant ways.  Feeling Paralyzed by the Migrant Crisis in Europe? Here Are Some Practical Ways You Can Help. — Lynne Hybels

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How A Muslim Child Saved An Evangelical Minister’s Soul

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.00.51 AMPrior to 2005 I hated Muslims. I would not have admitted that openly, but my deepest feelings toward them were resentment, distrust and bitterness. Now, ten years later, I love them and see them as my brothers, sisters and dear friends. What brought about such a radical change of heart? It took place one afternoon in a Starbucks when I had an encounter with a Muslim boy named Omar.

Three months before I met Omar, I had been invited to attend a class at a church on Muslim/Christian relationships. I laughed at the invitation when I received it. My wife, Oceana, told me she felt like I should attend the class because I had a deep prejudice against Muslims, especially Arabs. I had always prided myself on being a progressive pastor who promoted racial reconciliation in the churches that I had lead, but when it came to Muslims I just could not see them the same way. After some prodding and prayer on the part of my wife I finally decided to take the class.

As I read books on Islam and attended the class, I began to realize that I was judging and condemning a group of people that I really knew little about. I read Muslim, Christian, and secular authors on Islam. I made a point to hear all sides. I did this to ensure that my conclusions concerning Islam would not be romantic in nature, but would be based on a sense of honesty, realism, and empathy.

I was not naïve in processing this information. I am concerned about the radical extremists who are committing horrible acts in the name of Islam, but I am equally concerned that the U.S. foreign policies toward the Muslim world have helped create much of the resentment that the Muslim world and other nations have toward us. Suffice it to say, I believe I am a more committed Christian today because of my genuine friendships with Muslims.

Although the class and the books I was reading were impacting my view of Muslims, it would take a small child named Omar to completely turn my heart around.

One day I was sitting in a Starbucks reading a book about Muslims and their culture. The more I read the book the more frustrated I became. I decided to pray for guidance on this issue. I closed my book and prayed: “God, surely you are not calling me to reach out to Muslims in friendship and to build bridges between Christians and Muslims. I want you to know that I have no desire to do this because it would stretch me way beyond my comfort zone. But if you are, I need you to give me a sign so clear I will never doubt it.”

I went back to drinking my coffee and felt a sense of relief. I did not believe He would answer that prayer. Within a couple of minutes, a little boy walked over and asked if he could borrow one of the highlighters that I was using to mark my book. I said, “Sure.” He got in a chair and said, “By the way, my name is Omar. I am five years old and I am here to teach you Arabic.” I was stunned. Omar’s mother called to him to leave me alone, but I told her that Omar was fine.

God had my complete attention.

Omar began writing in Arabic and coaching me on how to do it. Afterwards, I approached his mother and told her that I believed Omar would be a great teacher one day. She told me that Omar was a shy child and he did not typically approach strangers. She was trying to figure out what compelled him to come over to me. As I left Starbucks that day, I began my journey of walking with Muslims as a genuine friend.

I have never doubted that God sent Omar to soften the heart of this Christian who had forgotten the words of Jesus. He said that His followers must love their neighbors as much as they love themselves, and that we even love, forgive and pray for our enemies.

I no longer see Muslims as my enemies and I can say that I have a deep love and genuine friendship with many of them. I encourage Muslims and Christians to form friendship groups and to eat together; to discuss the Bible and the Qur’an, not to debate, but to find out what they have in common and to gain understanding about how they are different; and I encourage churches, mosques and synagogues to partner together on humanitarian projects.

Some will say that I am compromising my faith by what I am doing. I believe such endeavors of mercy are at the core of the teachings of Jesus the Messiah.


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