I don’t know about you, but the political changes and news headlines in 2017 were enough to give me a chronic headache. Especially those concerning the refugee crisis. As the year progressed, fear seemed to became the winning narrative, and indifference the easy way out. Yet as we stand with one foot in 2017 and one in 2018, reflecting on how our response toward refugees has shifted, let’s not forget who we harm when we succumb to misplaced fear and indifference. The refugees our world continues to argue over are not monsters, pawns, nor mere political “annoyances.” They are real people with dreams, passions, skills, fears, and hopes–just like you and me. The one major difference being that they are fleeing war and persecution.
In 2016 I traveled through seven European countries alongside the people photographed below to learn the truth behind this crisis. I discovered the names and stories of every person you see here, and in doing so I learned to see each of them as friends and allies. These are the faces and characteristics of individuals who forever changed the way I view refugee/immigration policy. Their stories taught me the importance of how we treat one another, especially those who are heartsick from long and painful journeys to find peace.
I pray that when you look into the faces of these refugees you will see yourself reflected in their eyes. I certainly do. Read on, or scroll to the bottom to learn how you can practically respond (this includes a letter-writing initiative for local refugees that you can participate in)!
These are the reasons I stand with refugees…
1.) They are families who love deeply and want the best for their children.
2.) They are daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers.
3.) They are men and women who ask, seek, and pray for a safer future.
4.) They are children who can still find a common language through laughter and play.
5.) They are future scientists, writers, architects, mathematicians, heroes or oppressors. It all depends on the opportunity they are given to thrive.
6.) They are future advocates for peace, and defenders of the downtrodden.
7.) They are warm and hospitable to any who cross their path.
8.) They are fierce protectors of their family and children.
9.) They have remarkable stories to tell of resilience and defiance against violence.
10.) They have senses of humor like you and me (duh!), and make silly faces that could melt even the toughest of hearts.
11.) They laugh and cry, the same as you and I (again, duh).
12.) They long for people to look them in the eye and see them once again as human.
13.) They are ready to reach the end of their long journey toward peace.
14.) They are tired and lonely, and in many cases feel forgotten.
15.) They are mourning the loss of their children’s childhoods.
16.) They desperately long for stability, especially for their children.
17.) They carry sorrow in their hearts, yet courageously push forward for the sake of future generations.
18.) They are fearfully and wonderfully made, just like you and I.
19.) They are worthy of our love, and not our fear.
20.) They are people I will continue to speak up for, because I know they would do the same for me.
If loving refugees matters to you too, get involved! Here are three practical steps you can take right now:
- Call your representatives! It’s ridiculously easy. Text your ZIP code to (520) 200-2223 and you will immediately receive a list of your local representatives and their phone numbers. Give them a call, say your zip code, and express your concern to welcome and support refugees (there’s an example of what to say here). It takes 60 seconds and it’s pretty much pain free. BONUS: If you’re weirded out by phone calls, you can Tweet directly to your representatives (way to go, #worldchanger)!
- Give! Whether you give to an organization working in the midst of conflict zones, along the refugee route, or on the American side (or all of the above!), let your spending reflect your heart. Need some ideas? Check out these organizations I love and trust: Preemptive Love Coalition, World Relief, World Vision.
- Write a letter! After the tremendous response from last year’s #NotForgotten campaign, you can partner with World Relief this year to bring your letters of encouragement and love to local refugees. So write a letter welcoming refugees who are living in the United States and our friends at World Relief Seattle can distribute them. It can be a few sentences or a few pages. Get your kids involved too and allow them to get crafty! You can share this idea online with the hashtag, #RefugeesWelcome.
Email your letters to:
Subject Line: #RefugeesWelcome
Mail your letters to:
World Relief Seattle
841 Central Ave. N. Suite C-106
Kent, WA 98032