The global refugee crisis is an opportunity to demonstrate what we as Christians stand for: compassion, not fear; people, not politics; and concern for others. It’s our chance to show that we don’t see refugees as unloved. We try to see them as God does: as made in His image, full of potential, and beloved.
Do you hate war? I’m sure I know the answer. Everyone loathes war and its effects. Perhaps you or a family member has seen war up close while serving in the armed forces, and if so, you know better than me how horrific it is.
We can pray for peace, but there’s not much else we can do as individuals—or even World Vision, as a humanitarian organization—to actually end conflict. That’s the realm of governments and power brokers.
But there is a great deal more we can do for the people most directly affected by war, the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire: refugees and displaced people. The love and concern we show them today can give them hope and foster peace in their hearts.
Did you know that the number of people forcibly displaced by war worldwide has reached 65.3 million—more than the entire population of the United Kingdom? That’s a record high. Every minute in 2015, war and persecution forced 24 people to flee. Half of these desperate people are children.
It’s troubling that in wealthy countries like ours, there’s distrust and fear of refugees who might join our communities. And on the other hand, there’s apathy toward refugees living in camps and settlements far away.
The best antidote to these reactions is to listen to people’s stories. In recent years I’ve traveled to the Middle East and met many Syrian refugees, getting to know them as mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. I’ve wept with them and laughed with them. These people had nothing to do with the conflict that consumed their lives. Christians and Muslims alike long for peace so that they can go home.
I met Edward and Juliette, a Christian couple with two children who once ran a carpentry business in Syria. One day a car bomb outside their home injured their 13-year-old son, Tony, leaving him paralyzed on his right side. While he was still in the hospital, violence escalated in the area, and Edward and Juliette had no choice but to literally carry their son out of the hospital and flee with both children across the border into Lebanon.
When I visited with the family in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley last year, young Tony lay on a mat on the floor. Juliette cried as she showed me a photo of Tony’s soccer team—he had been a star player. He had also been active in his church youth group back in Syria.
“My son is dying before my very eyes, and I can’t do anything,” Edward lamented. “I know we have to trust in the Lord, but we are so discouraged.”
I also met Abir, a Muslim mother of five daughters living in a 10-by10-foot tent—a far cry from the three-bedroom house with a garden and a picket fence she once had in Syria. Abir and her children fled to Lebanon after a sniper shot at them while they walked down the street, wounding Abir in the leg. Her husband stayed behind, and two years later, they didn’t know if he was dead or alive.
When I asked Abir about her hopes for the future, she said, “There is only today, there is no tomorrow. We live hour by hour.”
Edward, Juliette, Abir, and millions of other moms and dads are losing hope. As anyone who has been without hope knows, it’s as necessary for survival as bread and water. You can endure a great deal more when you know that someone cares, even someone halfway across the globe.
When followers of Jesus extend a hand of friendship to refugees in the Middle East during their hour of need, it’s a powerful sign to them, planting seeds of peace in their hearts that can bear fruit in future generations.
It’s also a strong signal to the wider world. The global refugee crisis is an opportunity to demonstrate what we as Christians stand for: compassion, not fear; people, not politics; and concern for others’ interests, not just our own. It’s our chance to show that we don’t see refugees the way the rest of the world does, as unwanted, unwelcome, and unloved. We try to see them as God does, as made in his image, full of potential, and beloved.
After all, the ultimate weapon against war is love.
So if you hate war, there’s more you can do in the name of peace. You can reach out with love to refugees, giving them a measure of hope in the midst of their suffering.
On this International Day of Peace, pray for peace and show love and compassion to refugees: Join us in responding to the refugee crisis.
*Top Photo: Syrian refugee Mahal and her 15-month-old daughter Khouloud live in a tented settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. (2016 Jon Warren/World Vision)