I’m sitting here the evening of July 3, listening to fireworks go off in my neighborhood. There are a lot of loud noises…noises my dog doesn’t like. He doesn’t want to go outside unless he absolutely has to–or unless we make him (and go with him for reassurance) and he wants to get as close as he can to us to feel safe.
For me, the noises are just noise. Sort of annoying…especially if they go on well into the night…but they aren’t anything that make me particularly nervous.
But that’s not true for many people. When they hear noises like this, they flinch, wondering just how safe they are…whether their house will still be standing…whether their family will survive the night…and whether they should try sticking it out in their country or take the incredible risks involved in trying to get to someplace safer.
I’ve just finished reading a book–Crossing the Sea with Syrians on the Exodus to Europe by Wolfgang Bauer. It’s a long title…not one that’s particularly catchy. But something about the book–and I’m not sure what it was–caught my attention.
I’ve read the news stories like everyone else. I’ve seen the stories on TV. But somehow, this book made people come to life.
The author and a friend focus on several people who decide to take the risks to try to get from Syria to Germany…to leave behind everything they know in the desperate attempt to start a new life–to find safety for their families. They originally pretended to be refugees themselves so that they could–as fully as possible–take part in the experience of being smuggled. Their group was eventually arrested, and they were deported; however, they maintained contact with their friends…who eventually made it safely to new lives. They were the lucky ones–the survivors…the ones who have a chance.
Immigration is a hot topic right now. It’s easy to dismiss it in the abstract–to say that there isn’t room…that the refugees should tough it out and work to make things better.
But when you start to put faces…and stories…then it’s no longer abstract. They become our brothers and sisters. And I am reminded that one of the books that I consider to be scripture says this:
“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21)
Would those who left Egypt so many years ago, seeking a new life, be welcome today?
The One that I follow also said this:
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me….Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-46, 40)
There are valid issues surrounding the refugee crises that are in so many places in the world. But as we try to figure out ways to deal with them, we have to find ways of understanding why…of seeing the refugees as individuals–as people like us, with the same fears and hopes that we have for our families…and yes, even to see them as brothers and sisters. Then…just maybe…we can find ways of ensuring that other families will not have to deal with the heartbreak symbolized by this picture.