When We Become the Refugees

Here’s a scenario: You have plans to visit an historic site in the Middle East — pick one — since the cradle of Christianity began rocking there centuries ago. Now, picture yourself stranded because of some disaster: an explosion of some sort might be available. You’ve lost your hotel and with it your clothes, your money, your ability to communicate with friends and relatives, so what do you do?

At this point, you are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, people you don’t know, probably speaking a language you don’t understand. And, you don’t know how long this will persist until you can put your life back together. That describes just about any refugee you’ve heard about or read about, whether they come from the Middle East or south of our border.

People in desperate situations are willing to take desperate measures to protect their families, especially their children. Do you love your children more than a mother in El Salvador or Syria or Haiti or some other country where war and/or poverty play a part in every decision you make? How do you decide which mother cares more?

If you put five mothers in a room who speak different languages, they will still communicate the love they have for their children and the caring they have for yours. Mothers don’t generally discriminate when they express, however inadequately, their appreciation for another’s child. Language barriers, under certain circumstances, can strip adults of their preconceived notions, of discriminatory ideas, of condescension towards another whose language they don’t speak.

By the same token, children are not born with prejudices against others because of race or religion. When they are playing together, they concentrate on what’s important: how to play that game. Even if they don’t speak the same language, if you introduce a ball into the mix, they will find a way to communicate.

So, we should not think of all refugees as enemies, people here to do us harm. Granted, a small group of people around the world and certainly in this country, want to harm whoever they meet. But more than anything, refugees are seeking shelter, safety, a place to call home that will no longer endanger their loved ones. Some of these so-called refugees are engineers, doctors, nurses, social workers — professionals of all stripes. Others may be laborers or people who have not had opportunities to go to school.

What we need to know and believe is: These people are really just like we are, or could be if we were born in a war-torn part of the world. The problem is, those “parts” are becoming much more widespread. We could find ourselves in a hotel where we must depend on the kindness of strangers. When the situation is reversed, we should be ready to reach out to others. Our faith demands it, and we should insist upon it.