Meet Muhammad Ali and Fahad, two individuals who may help you break the stereotype you have of young refugee men in Europe. They were both students from a small Kurdish town in Syria before they fled the war, and have found themselves unable to get farther north than Slovenia on their journey into Europe.
When I asked them about their hopes for the future, Muhammad responded, “I cannot think of the future I want—I need to go back to school, I need an education for my future. I like to learn and need to learn new languages. We left because of the war and fled through Turkey’s mountains with no food and no water for three days trying to get to Europe. And now we are stuck here. No, I cannot think about the future.”
Especially because of their age and gender as refugees, men like Muhammad and Fahad are under the world’s scrutiny. However, from my own experience with young men along Europe’s refugee route over the past month, let me tell you this… I never once felt threatened by young refugee men. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen. Believe me I’ve heard many of the same stories as you, but those stories weren’t my experience.
I may have received a few marriage proposals along the way (true story–and most hilarious when it came from their mothers), but I was never treated with anything other than respect from the men I encountered. So before you jump to conclusions from the headlines you see in the news, pause and consider the story behind the stereotype.
I don’t know about you, but I believe they deserve as much. And while we are eager to pray for women and children, these young men need our prayers too.
Friends, please pray that they find HOPE for their future. And for the thousands of other young refugee men, pray for a future where, whether they stay in Europe or are able to return to their country, they can be accepted, loved, and treated with respect. We pray this so that they too can stand up for others in love—just as we are trying to stand up for them.