Last week, the European refugee crisis reached a tragic peak. More than 11 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and persecution. Many of these people have had no option but to put their lives at risk again and again in an attempt to reach a country that will provide refuge and protection. I have experienced many emotions watching the news: grief, sadness, helplessness, frustration. One of the most heartbreaking images was a photo of a three-year-old boy named Aylan Kurdi. His body was found washed up on the Turkish coastline. He drowned in his family’s attempt to find safety. Many of us shared in the shock and anguish of such a young life lost.
The Biblical concept of lament comes to mind when I think of how to respond to crisis situations. Lament in the Hebrew Bible is an expression of sorrow, a description of distress, or a protest about injustice. As in the book of Lamentations, we need to express the confusion and separation felt during this crisis, as occurred after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. If you are crying out to help refugees like Aylan and his family, there are a few small things that you can do that can make a difference:
- Pray – Pray for all refugees and particularly the Syrian refugees during this time of conflict. You can find prayers and other worship resources for refugees in our lectionary.
- Act – In response to this global refugee crisis, the largest since World War II, you can urge the President and Congress to increase the annual refugee admission goal, or “Presidential Determination,” from the 2015 number of 70,000 to 200,000 for 2016 and prioritize receiving 100,000 Syrian refugees in this number.
- Welcome – Go to www.wewelcomerefugees.com and add your name to the list of supporters. Wewelcomerefugees.com is inviting all churches and Christian leaders to take a moment in your services and gatherings to discuss the incredible humanitarian tragedy being faced by largely Syrian refugees. You can sign up on their website for a free information package.
- Help with resettlement efforts – Some Syrian refugees are being resettled into the Winston-Salem and Greensboro areas. If you live in those areas and would like to help, contact Church World Service in Greensboro or the High Point office of World Relief to see about volunteer opportunities.