Practical ways to help refugees
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Practical ways to help refugees

Christians should engage with the world’s suffering

By Joseph Mosse | Contributor

Photograph provided by Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe

Refugees who survive the Mediterranean face colder climates as winter sets in. Photograph provided by Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe

Four years ago, I was in Ukraine. It was a tense time. A revolution threatened to spark a civil war while Russia stirred ominously across the border. A heavy sense of uncertainty and fear settled on everything and everyone as we sifted through news sources trying to determine Russia’s mood on a given day. Only two people did not seem to notice the unrest: a couple of university students I knew from Syria. It was almost like our problems hardly registered to them, compared to what was going on back home.

I have no idea where those students are now. I hope they stayed in Ukraine. The civil war in Syria has spiraled even further into chaos and anarchy; the number of refugees streaming out of the country grows daily. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country and face bleak prospects. Most flee to Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, countries not equipped to deal with such a dramatic influx of people. Other refugees journey further, crossing the Mediterranean to Greece. Their boats sink regularly. Those who make it face a long, hard trudge into colder climates as winter sets in.

Thanks to President Trump’s “extreme vetting” executive order and the controversy surrounding it, the refugee crisis is once again prominent in America’s public conscience. Christians cannot be content to argue or protest the merits of an American policy and then do nothing. This is an opportunity for us to reject apathy and indifference. Does that mean everyone should go straight to work in refugee camps? No, but there are practical ways we can engage this issue on more than a superficial level.

1. Educate yourself aggressively.

Numerous resources exist: the Human Rights Watch and UNHCR websites, news articles and video exposes, even several books in our library (look for “The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria” by Janine di Giovanni). Lighthouse students who were in Greece over J-term are eager to tell you about their experiences with refugees. Taylor hosts humanitarian aid workers who can describe what they’ve seen and done. There is a Modern Middle East class. We have every opportunity to gain a deep and nuanced understanding of the Syrian civil war, the refugee crisis and all the complexities surrounding it.

2. Commit to praying seriously for Syria and other places like it.

Even if you cannot pray for people by name, you can pray for the cities, leaders, different factions and groups involved. Find like-minded people and pray together. A group meets in the Prayer Chapel on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. to pray for the Middle East. Join them.

3. Don’t dismiss the possibility of actually serving refugees.

Going to serve displaced people is very feasible for Taylor students. World Outreach Week is next week, and with it comes representatives from all kinds of missions organizations. I guarantee you will find connections to people who directly serve Syrian and other refugees. When you see the labyrinth of mission representatives in the DC or Campus Center, don’t walk by. Stop. Ask questions. Find out how they are engaging the world and how, potentially, you could join. It could be life-changing for more people than just you.

As huge and important as the Syrian crisis is, I know I can’t expect everyone to rush to the problem I feel most passionate about. But as a Church, we must reject indifference. Closer to home, our country is still racked by racial conflict, disparity in education and opportunity, homelessness, depression, brokenness, depravity and all the other ills sin brings upon us. Show Christ’s love where you are. We should all be marked with a deep empathy for our world—one that pushes us to action, understanding, prayer and engagement.

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