Friday, September 4, 2015

Simple Suggestion #239... Get to know an immigrant or refugee

The Syrian refugee crisis finally hit home this week for some of us. The picture of a little child washed up on a beach woke many people up. The outrage and tears over the photo are all over the internet and TV. But have our hearts really changed?

The world has always known immigrants and refugees. Because of war, disaster and climate change, it always will. But until we know these people as our brothers and sisters, until we recognize that their children are our children, until we understand that we are all one and that what affects one affects all, pictures will come and go, outrage and tears will wax and wane. We have to make their troubles personal. But how?

My Burundian sister, Alice, opened my eyes to the horrors of the genocide more than any book or movie ever could. Her story of fleeing with her 8-month-old son from killers who spilled into Burundi from Rwanda opened my eyes to the suffering of refugees. I am often afraid to ask for updates from my Syrian sisters, Rima and Maria, because I know that some of their family members are still in danger. But fear is no excuse -- it's more important to offer a hand in friendship, and to find out if there is anything I can do to help them in their efforts to bring their families and friends to Canada. Today I wrote a letter to my Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration asking for an opening of Canada's borders to allow more refugees now, before the October election (!), and for the cutting of red tape preventing groups ready to support our brothers and sisters who are looking for lives far from war and persecution. There are many church groups and individuals just waiting to help, and they need us now.

But today's actual challenge is to notice those around us who have come from other places, to open our hearts to their stories, and to abandon our fears about reaching out to help in whatever ways we can. If you want to join me in writing a letter or three, that would be good, too. We need to remember that we must all sing with one voice if we are to survive this world's crises.

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