It’s just too much. I cannot begin to wrap my head around what it means for 66 million people to have been forcibly ripped from their homes and families. Saying that that equates to nearly 8 times the population of New York City doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend. I feel overwhelmed by videos that show 15,000 people arriving at a border crossing, the line stretching for miles. The mother of two small children myself, the story of a woman whose infant son was ripped from her arms and thrown into the fire before she was gang raped is physically sickening, almost unreadable. I can’t bear to imagine myself in that situation, so I look quickly away. It’s so tempting to click over to Facebook, think about what to make for dinner, wipe away the dust on my desk, anything to distract and numb.
Improved technology and drone videos make it possible to see the scope of today’s refugee crisis as never before, but overexposure threatens to deaden our response. Part of the problem is that I feel powerless to change the situation when I consider the enormity of how many families are displaced. Even in America, political forces larger than me are at work. There are powerful people who have a passionate interest in making the country I love less welcoming to refugees and immigrants. This is not a passive slide away from welcome. I do not have the ear of the President and I know that I cannot, in my sphere of influence, change the world for all 66 million refugees.
Still, I know that every act of welcome matters. I know because I have worked and volunteered with refugees for most of my adult life. I have heard their incredible stories and experienced their warmth, resilience, and hospitality. That means I can’t imagine a faceless mass of refugees—I think of individuals like Mike, Hari, and Josiah, and I know that each refugee has a story of their own. I have seen how simple kindnesses, knowledgeable help, and household basics have enabled them to begin again, finding a way forward. Yes, today’s refugee crisis is larger than me, but I must do something.
If you are of the same mind—heart-broken by what you see and hear, and looking for a way to make a difference, please join me! Here’s a list of a few ideas to get you started:
- Call a senator or representative. It might feel a bit intimidating or uncomfortable, but that’s okay! Making your voice heard is more important now than ever before. For the first time in recent history, welcoming refugees has become partisan politics, and that is a problem. If you need help, just look here.
- Make a financial donation to a local resettlement agency. They are struggling to maintain their capacity to welcome refugees when new arrivals and funding are uncertain. Your gift will help make sure that they are still around to provide welcome and services, and that they can retain talented, experienced staff to provide assistance.
- Talk to your friends and family about refugees. It doesn’t have to be a well-researched speech aimed at indoctrinating them in the positive aspects of welcoming refugees. Just be intentional about mentioning your support for refugees and sharing the experiences you’ve had as a volunteer or your thoughts on articles you have read.
- Pray for refugees! We know that God cares for them, and that welcoming refugees gives hands and feet to God’s love for the oppressed. Pray in accordance with the scriptures for those who have experienced so much. If you are looking for prayer resources, look here.
- Share the needs of refugees with your church or other community group. Ask if you can help organize a donation drive for bathroom supplies, coats, or whatever item is most needed by your local resettlement agency. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know about our current needs).
- Follow a couple of refugee-serving organizations on Facebook, Instagram, or your social media platform of choice. Having up-to-date news and stories right in front of you will help you to stay aware. May I suggest a few? MCC Refugee Services, UNHCR, Refugee Council USA, Episcopal Migration Ministries, and Church World Service are all great options.
- Make a donation to an international refugee organization (like UNHCR) to help in times of crisis. At present, the UNHCR is mounting a huge response to the tremendous influx of Rohingya refugees at the Bangladesh border and they need donations.
- Make space in your daily life to interact with refugees and immigrants. Visit a refugee-geared market or restaurant and engage politely with those you meet there. Let your smiles and words convey “I’m so glad you’re here. You make our community a better place.”
Thank you for joining us. Together, we can make the world a better place for all of us.
This reflection comes from our Communications Specialist, Kristin Zoellner.