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.
They are people.
They are struggling and suffering.
Their lives are at risk.
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.
A few days ago I was coming home and I noticed that two of our neighbors’ cats were posturing themselves for a major cat fight. I knew that bloodshed was imminent. I could not just turn the other way and just let this happen. Turning the other way and pretending not to see problems and being unwilling to work for viable solutions seems to be normative in our culture. But I have chosen to be a person of action. I got out of my car and stood between the cats and said to them, “Okay you two just settle down. You guys are not going to fight today.” Then I picked up Mabel, our next door neighbor’s cat, and made her go home.
Unbeknownst one of my neighbors was watching this whole drama. He started laughing at me and said, “There goes the peacemaker. He just can’t help himself. He’s always honing his skills. Even if it’s with cats.” I smiled back at him and said, “I’m just trying to prevent bloodshed.”
A Catalyst For Peace
Most people who know me identify me as a life coach and a peacemaker. I prefer to see myself as more a catalyst for peace than a peacemaker. I bring people and resources together, and once they are working together as friends for the common good I move on. I am constantly looking for win/win solutions and how people who are stuck in polarized positions can become friends and build a better future together.
As I blog I want to bring you fresh perspectives on important issues and provide you with practical resources for your consideration so that you can make better informed decisions. I am not asking you to agree with everything I say, but to be willing to listen to differing opinions and perhaps work with others who are different from you to create a better reality. A reality that could not have been created through ideological conformity and intellectual polarization. Albert Einstein reportedly said, “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” I believe Einstein would include the current Syrian refugee crisis if he were here today.
The controversial subject of the U.S. taking in more Syrian refugees is an issue that is dividing our country. Good and intelligent people on both sides have strong opinions and convictions as to what our nation should do. I submit to you an opinion of someone who is worthy of your consideration.
An Immigration Attorney Weighs In
Scott Hicks, is an immigration attorney and Christian minister. As someone who is an expert in Immigration law and part of the vetting process for refugees coming into this country he gives us a unique perspective on how the process of entry actually works. Also, he also addresses the validity of the security concerns around the refugee vetting process for the U.S. I hope you find his letter that he posted on Facebook helpful. Thank you Scott for being willing to let me post your comments.
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Most of my friends know I practice Immigration law. As such, I have worked with the refugee community for over two decades. This post is long, but if you want actual information about the process, keep reading.
I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to see the misinformation and outright lies that are being perpetuated about the refugee process and the Syrian refugees. So, here is a bit of information from the real world of someone who actually works and deals with this issue.
The refugee screening process is multi-layered and is very difficult to get through. Most people languish in temporary camps for months to years while their story is evaluated and checked.
First, you do not get to choose what country you might be resettled into. If you already have family (legally) in a country, that makes it more likely that you will go there to be with family, but other than that it is random. So, you cannot simply walk into a refugee camp, show a document, and say, I want to go to America. Instead, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) works with the local authorities to try to take care of basic needs. Once the person/family is registered to receive basic necessities, they can be processed for resettlement. Many people are not interested in resettlement as they hope to return to their country and are hoping that the turmoil they fled will be resolved soon. In fact, most refugees in refugee events never resettle to a third country. Those that do want to resettle have to go through an extensive process.
Resettlement in the U.S. is a long process and takes many steps. The Refugee Admissions Program is jointly administered by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within DHS conducts refugee interviews and determines individual eligibility for refugee status in the United States.
We evaluate refugees on a tiered system with three levels of priority.
First Priority are people who have suffered compelling persecution or for whom no other durable solution exists. These individuals are referred to the United States by UNHCR, or they are identified by the U.S. embassy or a non-governmental organization (NGO).
Second priority are groups of “special concern” to the United States. The Department of State determines these groups, with input from USCIS, UNHCR, and designated NGOs. At present, we prioritize certain persons from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Iran, Burma, and Bhutan.
Third priority are relatives of refugees (parents, spouses, and unmarried children under 21) who are already settled in the United States may be admitted as refugees. The U.S.-based relative must file an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) and must be processed by DHS.
Before being allowed to come to the United States, each refugee must undergo an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process conducted by Regional Refugee Coordinators and overseas Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs). Individuals generally must not already be firmly resettled (a legal term of art that would be a separate article). Just because one falls into the three priorities above does not guarantee admission to the United States.
The Immigration laws require that the individuals prove that they have a “well-founded fear,” (another legal term which would be a book.) This fear must be proved regardless of the person’s country, circumstance, or classification in a priority category. There are multiple interviews and people are challenged on discrepancies. I had a client who was not telling the truth on her age and the agency challenged her on it. Refugees are not simply admitted because they have a well founded fear. They still must show that they are not subject to exclusion under Section 212(a) of the INA. These grounds include serious health matters, moral or criminal matters, as well as security issues. In addition, they can be excluded for such things as polygamy, misrepresentation of facts on visa applications, smuggling, or previous deportations. Under some circumstances, the person may be eligible to have the ground waived.
At this point, a refugee can be conditionally accepted for resettlement. Then, the RSC sends a request for assurance of placement to the United States, and the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) works with private voluntary agencies (VOLAG) to determine where the refugee will live. If the refugee does have family in the U.S., efforts will be made to resettle close to that family.
Every person accepted as a refugee for planned admission to the United States is conditional upon passing a medical examination and passing all security checks. Frankly, there is more screening of refugees than ever happens to get on an airplane. Of course, yes, no system can be 100% foolproof. But if that is your standard, then you better shut down the entire airline industry, close the borders, and stop all international commerce and shipping. Every one of those has been the source of entry of people and are much easier ways to gain access to the U.S. Only upon passing all of these checks (which involve basically every agency of the government involved in terrorist identification) can the person actually be approved to travel.
Before departing, refugees sign a promissory note to repay the United States for their travel costs. This travel loan is an interest-free loan that refugees begin to pay back six months after arriving in the country.
Once the VOLAG is notified of the travel plans, it must arrange for the reception of refugees at the airport and transportation to their housing at their final destination. This process from start to finish averages 18 to 24 months, but I have seen it take years.
The reality is that about half of the refugees are children, another quarter are elderly. Almost all of the adults are either moms or couples coming with children. Each year the President, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the proposed ceiling is 85,000. We have been averaging about 70,000 a year for the last number of years. (Source: Refugee Processing Center)
Over one-third of all refugee arrivals (35.1 percent, or 24,579) in FY 2015 came from the Near East/South Asia—a region that includes Iraq, Iran, Bhutan, and Afghanistan. Another third of all refugee arrivals (32.1 percent, or 22,472) in FY 2015 came from Africa. Over a quarter of all refugee arrivals (26.4 percent, or 18,469) in FY 2015 came from East Asia — a region that includes China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. (Source: Refugee Processing Center)
Finally, the process in Europe is different. I would be much more concerned that terrorists are infiltrating the European system because they are not nearly so extensive and thorough in their process.
Many Americans do not realize that ISIS has killed more Muslims than they have any other group. It is estimated that ISIS has killed at least a 100,000 Muslims. ISIS is not only out to obliterate ancient historical sites or anything that represents Christianity, but also Muslims who do not conform to their radical violent sectarian version of Islam. This is a side story that is not emphasized enough in the media.
Why Is There A Syrian Refugee Crisis?
We are having a refugee crisis because Muslims are fleeing from ISIS for their lives. These Muslim refugees along with their Christian neighbors are seeing their sons and husbands murdered by ISIS and their daughters forced to become sex slaves. If they do not join ISIS and become radicalized the alternatives are death, rape and torture. This is how the Caliphate of ISIS is attempting to force the “rule of God” on earth.
ISIS Sinister Plan
Adam Taylor who writes on foreign affairs for the Washington Post believes the Paris terrorist attacks were a trap to get Europe to hate Muslims. ISIS wants us to hate Muslims and refugees so that they will be forced to join the Islamic State. He says:
If Muslim refugees come to Europe and are welcomed, it deeply undercuts the Islamic State’s legitimacy. Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has helpfully catalogued some of the Islamic State’s messages on the refugees pouring into Europe from the Middle East. The messages give the impression of deep discomfort and even jealousy that the Muslim population the Islamic State so covets for its self-proclaimed “caliphate” would rather live in “infidel” Western lands.
Are We Falling Into ISIS’s Trap?
Those of us in the United States and Europe should strongly consider our treatment of our Muslim neighbors and how we handle the Syrian refugee crisis. We do not want to be reactionary pawns in ISIS’ grande schemes or fall into their terrorist traps.
This behooves us to attempt to work for a win/win solution on the Syrian refugee crisis and how we relate to our Muslim neighbors so we can balance our great need for security with our responsibility to be good neighbors and humanitarians. ISIS is terrified that we will find that balance. Maybe we as a nation we should consider doing the opposite of what ISIS hopes we will do with Syrian refugees and our Muslim neighbors.
Adam Taylor has written an outstanding article called The Islamic State Wants You To Hate Refugees. I give this article “two thumbs up.” It is loaded with links to other research that will help you see how ISIS wants to use a strategy of fear and hatred to get Muslims on their side by turning us against them. I hope you will take some time to read Adam’s article and consider his research. While our leaders prepare for war with ISIS let us continue peace and friendship with our Muslim neighbors who are equally opposed the evil radical agenda of ISIS. May we not force Muslims who hate ISIS into a corner that the Islamic State so desperately hopes we will do. ISIS Wants You To Hate Refugees
This is dynamic season in our country. Our nation is not only afraid because of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California, but also because of the increasing global threat of terrorism around the world. It is a legitimate threat and we cannot take it lightly.
The central focus of the recent political debates has been keeping America safe and secure. Although I agree wholeheartedly with this concern I am of the belief that we have to find a way to do this without losing our souls in the process as Americans.
For The Sake Of Our Children
I realize that a strong military response to ISIS and it’s allies cannot be avoided, but if we do not find a way to deal with the root causes of why groups like ISIS exist then we will fail. Our children and grandchildren will inherit the bitter consequences of our inability to heal the breech that exists between our foreign policy interests and the interests of other nations of the world who also want a better life for themselves and their families.
Will we be an empire or a partner for the common good in a global community? Will we be afraid and think only of our self-preservation or will we enter into a national conversation to actually work for redemptive solutions to terrorism, immigration reform and receiving legitimate refugees in our country?
Can We Be Both Safe & Open?
One of the big issues before us now is what are we going to do with refugees coming through the Middle East who are fleeing for their lives from ISIS. I can appreciate the struggles on both sides of the issue and I think both sides are going to have to work together to solve this problem.
The key is to actually solve the refugee issue in ways we do not have to compromise our American values while taking care of our interests and need for security. I think it can be done, but those polarized in this conversation are going to have to see, hear, and engage each other for the sake of the common good of all in this country. And “yes” that includes our American Muslim neighbors who love this country and hate terrorism as much as the rest of us. We cannot scapegoat them or leave them out of the conversation. Nothing would make ISIS happier.
I found this blog about a U.S. Marine that has a great concern that we are in danger of letting our fear and need for security cause us to compromise who we are at our core as Americans. I hope you enjoy it. You do not have to agree with him, but I hope you will at least listen to what he has to say. U.S. Marine Comments on Syrian Refugee Crisis
This is what fear does in our country. Some people claim we are a Christian nation which I do not believe is true. But if that is what millions in this country claim that we are then we have to reject the spirit of fear.
As Christians we have to stand against fear and choose the path of love and reason. The path we are on now could eventually lead to arresting innocent people, destruction of property and businesses, and charities of people different than us. In my opinion, this would be a nullification of the Bill of Rights.
If we as Christians stand back and let our Muslim friends rights be violated then it is just a matter of time when we lose ours. We cannot have it both ways. God bless our freedom! God bless the Bill of Rights! God bless our country and may it always be a land for all its people.
I give you the words of the famous statement and provocative poem written by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. If we let this happen to the Muslims or any minority group in our country then eventually it will happen to us.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I found this to be a helpful article on the backlash of fear of Muslims and Syrian refugees in the U.S. in light of the Paris terrorist attacks.
[Cherie Gray is the Executive Director of the Tucson Refugee Ministry in Tucson, Arizona. Her website is Tucson Refugee Ministry. I consider her one of the foremost experts on refugee assimilation in the U.S. I am deeply grateful for Cherie being a guest blogger and providing this three part series]
This is a new era! It is no coincidence that God is moving millions of people from one continent to another. He is reshuffling the deck –moving people out of their comfort zones – out of the land of their ancestry – out of their spiritual strongholds. There are so many who need to witness the extravagant compassion and mercy of Jesus! He is airlifting them right into your neighborhood.
The good news is that God has already equipped us to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort those who mourn, to provide for those who grieve, to administer justice, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and to welcome the stranger. What a job description! And it belongs to every believer – not just the “professionals”! You’ve got this!!
Below are a few more pointers for reaching out to refugees:
Identity. The word “Christian” is often misunderstood and defined quite differently by international friends, so you may want to consider other ways to identify yourself with Jesus that carry less negative baggage. If you want your international friends to know that you honor God, even before you open your mouth, consider what you wear (err on the conservative side) and be aware of gender boundaries.
Humble Yourself. Learning the English language will be the key to success for your refugee friends. You can bring them joy (and entertainment) by making an effort to learn some words in their language. They may laugh at you, but it will build a bridge and they will always appreciate your efforts!
Healthy Balance. Respect their culture and teach them yours. When you visit them in their house, go by their rules (shoes at the door? sit on floor? eat with fingers?). When you invite them to your home, go by your rules (pray before meal? help yourself?). Our international friends have a beautiful culture and unique traditions. We don’t want them to leave everything behind when they assimilate.
Report. Ask your pastor if you can give a report to the congregation about your international, cross-cultural adventures with your refugee friends. Prepare a short powerpoint presentation to help others understand your experience. Consider starting a program at your church to give others a chance to embrace a refugee family.
You are called and commissioned to love and serve among the nations! But no need to raise funds for an airline ticket, get your immunizations, write support letters, or even pack your bags. All you need are your car keys! God is bringing the nations to your doorstep. Will you welcome them?
We Welcome Refugees – positions the global church as a key agent of hope and compassion in the current refugee crisis (wewelcomerefugees.com)
Refugee Highway Partnership – a worldwide network for Christian believers who are serving refugees; they offer many wonderful resources and an annual refugee ministry summit for the North America region called the RHPNA Roundtable scheduled for July 20-22 in Toronto, Canada. (refugeehighway.net) (www.rhpna.com)
IAFR – International Association for Refugees is assisting forcibly displaced people together with the refugee church. (iafr.org)
International Teams – helping churches embrace refugees along the Refugee Highway through ministries of presence, compassion, empowerment and training. (refmin.iteams.org)
World Relief – empowers the local Church to serve refugees and other vulnerable populations, working in community with the local church to see people transformed economically, socially and spiritually. (wr.org)
UNHCR – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. (www.unhcr.org)
[Cherie Gray is the Executive Director of the Tucson Refugee Ministry in Tucson, Arizona. Her website is Tucson Refugee Ministry. I consider her one of the foremost experts on refugee assimilation in the U.S.]
“It’s you!!” Like a deer in headlights, I stared at the smiling man, unable to place his face. “It’s you”, he said again, “You’re the one!”. Caught off guard, I wasn’t sure how to respond to this Arabic gentleman. “Do you remember me?” he asked. I desperately scrolled through my mental address book – searching for a clue but drawing a blank. Still insistent, he took off his glasses and stated emphatically, “Now you recognize me?!” I couldn’t place him, but he quickly filled in the blanks explaining, “You were there when my family and I arrived at the airport two years ago.”
After cries of joy and many warm greetings we made our way into the room where we were both attending a dialog between Muslims and Christians called “Loving God – Loving Your Neighbor”. Instead of finding a chair nearby, he made his way to the podium. When he was introduced I silently gulped. This was the Imam!! He offered some opening statements extending gracious greetings, then while I was still putting the pieces together, he pointed me out saying, “This is my friend. She welcomed my family when we first arrived in America. She is an example of loving God and loving your neighbor”. Although that night at the airport had been a small effort for me, he and his family remembered my face and that welcome was permanently imprinted in their memories. (That night also relaunched an amazing relationship with the Imam and his family that continues to this day!)
Loving our “neighbor” may not be the obvious (or the easiest) choice. It might mean crossing the street to help someone from an “enemy” country – someone who has been beaten and has stared down death. It may involve binding their wounds, putting them on our own “donkey” and taking responsibility for their recovery. We won’t be surprised when governments hurriedly cross to the other side of the road – their budgets too overburdened for them to stop and help. We won’t be disappointed when non-profits and charitable organizations are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crisis, and start looking the other way. We, as followers of Jesus, are uniquely suited to be the Good Samaritans!
Here are more ways we can reach out to our New American neighbors:
Stick your toe in the water. Make a commitment together to serve for a specific period of time, with clear boundaries. Ensure everyone involved agrees on what is expected during this timeframe. Consider a “milestone party” at the end of your commitment – to celebrate the interesting things that all of you have learned from each other.
Pencil It In. Schedule your visits with your international friends – literally put those visits on your calendar. (For Americans, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen!) Time is the most precious gift we can give. Invite your pastor or one of your church leaders to come with you to visit your new friends at least once.
Empower. Avoid the “Fairy Godmother Syndrome”. Giving gifts, meeting needs, and endeavoring to fix everything can leave those we are trying to assist feeling helpless and dependent. Empower your new friends to stand on their own two feet. They are amazing, resourceful, creative survivors to have made it this far! If they ask for help with financial or material needs, point them to God and remind them that He is the Provider. Offer to pray together about their needs. If you still feel led to help with a specific need, first consult their agency case manager, confirm it is a valid need, and give anonymously through them.
Radical Hospitality. Invite your new friends over for a meal. Hospitality is their love language, and it is a great honor for them to be invited to an American home. Hospitality trumps all other arguments (i.e. – “if they see my house, they will think I’m rich”). What we share with our international friends over the kitchen table will be repeated to their beloved relatives in faraway homelands. Cross-continental conversations happen almost daily via Skype, Viber and WhatsApp.
“Americans are not like what we expected!” an Afghani refugee told her volunteer. The Afghani lady was evasive when asked what they had anticipated – and how they had arrived at those assumptions. She hastily offered, “I tell my family back home – Americans are so nice! They ask me to come to their home! They are so friendly!” Hmmm – reminds me of I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love”!
[Cherie Gray is the Executive Director of the Tucson Refugee Ministry in Tucson, Arizona. Her website is Tucson Refugee Ministry. I consider her one of the foremost experts on refugee assimilation in the U.S.]
Have you watched the news lately, feeling helpless as streams of ragged, bewildered, desperate refugees flood the screen? Until recently, these forcibly displaced people have been mostly hidden from mainstream society, although nearly 70,000 are accepted legally into the U.S. annually! How many are resettling in your city?
The nations are not far away anymore, confined to forgotten islands or forsaken bush country. Bringing hope and sharing truth with least-reached and unengaged people groups is no longer reserved for the valiant and few super-saints – the selectively “called” that we send overseas.
God is now tapping “average” church members on the shoulder – those who have never applied for a passport, nor speak other languages! He is inviting soccer moms, school kids, businessmen, fitness instructors, grandfathers, spelling bee winners, board presidents, techies, photographers, football stars and politicians to love God and love our neighbor.
And it’s really easy to get started! Here are some first steps…
Connect. Look up your local refugee resettlement agency. Sign up to be a volunteer, attend their training, and determine where God wants you to serve. There will be a variety of opportunities and different levels of engagement – one time projects and short term commitments. Ask if you can greet a newly arriving family at the airport when they first land in America, and give them a hero’s welcome with signs, flags, flowers, etc.!
Meet and Invite. If your city doesn’t have refugee resettlement agencies, consider visiting international markets, food stores or ethnic restaurants to meet foreigners. In many countries, it is not uncommon to be invited to a stranger’s home for tea/coffee. If you have a divine encounter while shopping, don’t be afraid to extend an invitation to your home.
Pray. Begin praying for your international friend as soon as you learn their name. Research their country – learn about their language, culture, religion and traditions. Continue to be a learner and a listener. Ask God to show you how to build bridges and be the Good News!
Together is better! Recruit your friends to join you in an airport welcome, hosting a meal, or another special project. Embrace one refugee family together, taking turns making visits. Engage your entire family in ministry. Kids are great connectors – they are non-threatening, provide universal commonalities, and are often better at building bridges with international neighbors than we adults are.
I found this really cool website called We Welcome Refugees. I am so encouraged by their desire to take the message of Jesus seriously in their efforts to help solve this global crisis.
No doubt there are many Americans who are concerned that if we let more refugees into the country we are in danger of letting “sleeper terrorists” slip in among us. Others may feel that the refugee crisis is just too big and we do not have the power or resources to do anything about it. This website does a great job of attempting to address these questions and more. Here is the link to their questions section. I encourage you to at least check it out and maybe make a donation. We Welcome Refugees
Also, they have a section on their website they have a section called “Now Is The Churches Moment.” It will give you a list of organizations to choose from to help refugees. One of my favorites is World Relief. They have a proven track record with helping refugees. Samaritan’s Purse is also leading the way in this crisis. Rev. Mike Slaughter and the United Methodist Church Rev. Mike Slaughter and the United Methodist Church are planning a major Christmas project to raise over 2 million dollars to help refugees. If you prefer a more secular route the The United Nations Help Refugees would be a good consideration. Just do something!
The Greatest Human Migration Crisis In Recorded History
According to Methodist Minister and human rights activist Mike Slaughter we are living to see the greatest refugee crisis the world has ever known. He says, “Wars, conflict and persecution around the world have forced more people to flee and seek refuge elsewhere in recent years than has previously existed at any other time in recorded migration history. The U.N. reported in June that by the beginning of 2015 nearly 60 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced. One in every 122 human beings is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum on Planet Earth. This is simply incredible.” See Mike’s full article: Mike’s Article On Jesus Being A Refugee
These numbers are staggering. I am a student of history. I used to think that the migrations of the barbarians who eventually destroyed the Roman Empire were astounding, but when you look at these numbers there is no comparisons. One difference between the barbarian invasions, the massive people movements of Rome’s final years, and our current refugee crisis is that the barbarians came to conquer Rome, but our present refugees are fleeing for their lives. In order ignore this suffering, misery and want we have to give up our humanity. Be warned! If we give up humanity by closing the doors of compassion on these suffering peoples, who are fleeing for their lives, it will eventually come back to bite us as individuals and as a nation. There will be terrible consequences for all of us. Terrorism thrives where there is great poverty and want. But the most terrible consequence will be becoming a people of fear and indifference.
Jesus & The Refugee Crisis
It is clear from Matthew 2:13 that Jesus was a refugee. Mary and Joseph were told by the angel of the Lord to flee to Egypt to escape the violence and hatred of King Herod. Herod was searching for Jesus so he could kill him. I am so glad Egypt granted asylum to our Lord.
As I stated in my previous blog What Would Jesus Do About The Syrian Refugee Crisis it is clear that Judgment Day is not so much about the precise theological ideology we embraced cognitively, but whether or not we ministered to Jesus in practical ways when he came to us through people suffering on the margins of life (Matthew 25:31-46). One cannot be a follower of Jesus and ignore the implications of Jesus words when he says:
For I was hungry and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I WAS A STRANGER, AND YOU DIDN’T INVITE ME INTO YOUR HOME….
In the parable of the Ambitious Guest (Luke 14:7-14) Jesus expresses the importance of showing love, compassion and generosity to those who are marginalized and can never repay us. He promises a reward on Judgment Day to those who follow him in loving their neighbor in such sacrificial ways. He says
Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.
I am convinced that of all the great avatars and spiritual leaders of human history none can empathize more with the pain and suffering of humanity than Jesus. Just when I am tempted to embrace the politics of fear, polarization, violence and exclusion that permeate the political ideologies of the Right and Left in this country I am reminded that there is a Third Path. This Third Path of Jesus is to love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, treat other people the way you want to be treated and if you find enemies along the way do all you can to make them your friends.
Jesus came to show us a better way of being human and he backed it up with his life, death and resurrection. When our Lord rose from the dead he showed once and for all that the path of loving God and neighbor was superior to the path of human default which is desire (envy) rivalry, hostility, violence and scapegoating. He showed us a better way of being human.
What Can You Do To Be More Human?
At the World Refugee Day on June 10, 2015 Pope Francis said:
The number of these brother refugees is growing and, in these past few days, thousands more have been forced to leave their homes in order to save their life. Millions of families, millions of them, refugees from many countries and different faiths, experience in their stories tragedies and wounds that will not likely be healed,” said Pope Francis. “Let us be their neighbors, share their fears and uncertainty about the future, and take concrete steps to reduce their suffering.
I am challenging each of you to not be indifferent but do ONE thing to help with the global refugee crisis. Mike Slaughter offers some practical ways you can help through an upcoming Christmas project in the Methodist Church. Read his blog for more information Jesus Was A Refugee. In my last blog What Would Jesus Do About The Syrian Refugee Crisis? I discussed Lynne Hybels’ article in the Washington Post. Her article is loaded with practical ways organizations and individuals can make a difference. If you decide to do something respond to my blog and let you me know what are going to do. Let’s start of revolution!
*Photo of Pope Francis by VINCENT PINTO/AFP/Getty Images