World Refugee Day
On World Refugee Day…I see a poster plastered to a concrete slab, dirtied from the exhaust fumes of passing traffic. Over screeching busses and revving cars hang words that can’t be silenced: true Australians say Welcome. And I think how today…
A mother mourns her eldest son. After five years on Nauru, the Australian-run detention centre, he takes his own life. Back in Iran he faced threats of torture due to his Kurdish ethnicity. Australia was to be his land of hope, free of persecution. And I think how today…
Trump signs an executive order ending his own family separation policy, yet thousands of children still remain “ripped from their parent’s arms” in separate detention facilities. The Statue of Liberty fights to remain a symbol of freedom to immigrants reaching US borders. But still she says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Are we listening? And I think how today…
Two rescue ships motor through the Mediterranean carrying hundreds of migrants pulled from treacherous waters off the coast of Libya. The ships are searching for a port, a nation that will let them dock and offer refuge to the survivors. Access to safer shores is repeatedly denied.
Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. It’s a day that raises awareness about a global crisis that has left 25.4 million people with no other option but to flee their homes due to war, violence, disaster and persecution. It’s a day to honour the courage, resilience and contribution these brave people have made to our own societies. And this year, I pray it’s a wake-up call for compassionate change in nations that could provide hope rather than hostility.
Persecution in Iraq
Adrian, an Iraqi, fled his hometown in the Nineveh Plain due to the occupation of Islamic State in 2014. With the defeat of this terrorist group in Iraq last year he has since been able to return home. Adrian shares what it’s like in his country to endure persecution:
“For Iraqi Christian people suffering is something that they recognise very easily. ISIS came here and they forced all the Christians to get out. They looted all of our houses and burned our churches. They destroyed all our crosses. The Christians in Iraq have been suffering for decades. Christians are getting kidnapped, hurt and killed. Living here as a Christian will always be a challenge. Can you please stand with us in your prayers.”
As I watch Adrian share his story, standing in bullet-wrecked ruins of his town with peace on his lips and courage in his heart, I remember another Iraqi from long ago. God appeared to him and said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family and go to the land that I show you,” Genesis chapter 12, verse 1.
Unlike those around him, this man worshipped God Most High. His personal convictions meant he refused to take part in the idolatrous customs of the culture around him. He dared to be different. Like Adrian, I wonder if it cost Abraham his security.
Was it just as dangerous millennia ago to belong to a religious or ethnic minority in the Middle East as it is today? Was Abraham’s faith met with hostility in his hometown of Ur, southern Iraq? Is this part of the reason he felt called, and compelled, to leave his country? Was he praying God would guide him to a place where he could worship freely without fear of insult, slander, discrimination, attack and terror? We know that Abraham migrated first to Syria and then to Canaan, where he lived as a tent-dwelling, sojourner and foreigner for the rest of his days. And I wonder, was his plight similar to the millions worldwide today who are forced to flee their homes and risk everything in search of freedom and a land to live in safety?
“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith — for he was like a foreigner, living in tents…That is why God is not ashamed to be called [his] God.”
Hebrews chapter 11, verses 8 - 16.
Faith that fights
God’s heart was with Abraham, the sojourner, and his heart is with every displaced person today. Our thoughts shouldn’t be with these courageous people only on World Refugee Day. Our prayers should be upholding the persecuted everyday. The Words recorded by the prophet Isaiah reach through the folds of time to speak straight into this current crisis:
“Defend us against our enemies.
Protect us from their relentless attack.
Do not betray us now that we have escaped.
Let our refugees stay among you.
Hide them from our enemies until the terror is past.”
Isaiah chapter 16, verses 3 and 4.
Will we dare to demonstrate a faith that fights with love for this broken world. Isn’t that why Jesus gave his life? So the broken could be whole, and the sojourner could find a home in his heart. And so you and I could love with a Love that blazes into the darkness until the darkness is no more.
Amy is a Press Service International writer from Adelaide. Her previous articles can be read here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/amy-manners.html