Listening to refugees
Written by Andrew
If you’ve even glanced at the news lately, you’ve almost certainly read about the flood of refugees fleeing toward Europe from the conflict in Syria and Iraq. While it may dominate international headlines today, in many countries like Lebanon, the refugee crisis is anything but news. Instead, over the past four years, it’s become a constant reality of daily life.
Living in this region for just over a year now and interacting with people who have fled Syria on an almost daily basis, I feel like the only thing I understand for sure is that the situation is too complicated for me to understand.
Refugees didn’t all flee for the same reasons. Refugees aren’t all poor. They aren’t all from one religion or one social background.
Every day, I see refugees begging on the street in rundown neighborhoods, and, every day, I see them working behind the counter at upscale cafés in nice parts of town––and reading and drinking coffee at those cafés. Some refugees look like traumatized people who just fled for their lives from a bloody war, and there are others you’d never guess were refugees if you spent an hour talking with them.
There are very few things I can say about all the refugees I’ve met in general.
One of those few things is that they are all people who have lost their homes––some forever. I’ve never lost my home, so I can’t pretend I know what that’s like, but from talking to them, I don’t think it’s something you recover from easily. I’m not even sure how to pray for someone who has lost something like that, but I would still encourage you to keep praying.
Another is that they all have amazing stories. Sometimes, they are hard to hear, but they are always worth listening to. If you ever meet a refugee––and the probability of that goes up as the conflict continues––I’d really encourage you to take the time to listen to her or him. We may not know what to say––I know I don’t––but, sometimes, I think listening is better than anything we could say.
Finally, they are all deeply human people that God loves and created with dignity. As the conflict drags on and the “migrant crisis” in Europe gets more and more media attention, it’s all too easy to start viewing individuals as a whole and people as a problem. I know I’m as guilty as anyone of this, but it’s something we need to fight.
Praying for refugees as people and listening to their individual stories are a good start. And those are two things we can actually do as we ask God for guidance in how to respond in such an overwhelming situation.
Refugee relief work of the OM Near East Field - in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq - is guided by the following relief principles: local and relationally-based assistance, partnering with local believers, helping people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds without conditions, and a long-term view of the health and growth of the Church.
OM MENA communications intern Andrew W. loves going places where he can see the world from a different perspective and telling the stories of people who've found ways of living out God's love in a broken world.