You have probably heard a lot about refugees in the news and in political discussions, but what is a refugee anyway? And why are there refugees?
Simply put, a refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their home country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. For example, long-lasting civil wars in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have forced peaceable citizens to flee for their lives. Also, over 4.8 million people have been registered as refugees due to the Syrian civil war, with more being added to that number daily. Anyone of Nepali ancestry living in Bhutan has had their citizenship and civil rights revoked, forcing over 100,000 to leave. When no neighboring country would allow entry, they settled in refugee camps on the border of Nepal. Additionally, after seeking the creation of an independent state, the Karen people have been subjected to decades or persecution that continues today. The Burmese army regularly burns Karen villages and even attacks the refugee camps. Doctors and informants who helped U.S. soldiers in Iraq have had to flee their country for fear of retribution for assistance provided during wartime. These are just a few of the many situations that are causing forced migration. These are the refugees of the world.
Today, there are over 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people across the globe – more than any other time in history. These are not people who want a slice of the American pie. They are people for whom returning to their home country would mean continued persecution and death. For them, migration is not a choice, it is a necessity for survival.
The specific causes of each situation are unique, but the results are all too similar. Most refugees would prefer to stay in their home country, but when forced into camps the next best option is resettlement into a foreign country. For most of us, this is where the crisis hits home, right here in the United States.
Recently there has been a lot of publicity about the various aspects of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, the vetting process for refugees, and the politics surrounding the temporary immigration ban. You may be wondering, what is our role as men and women of Faith? When we look to the Scriptures it is clear:
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Perhaps your first step in loving your refugee neighbors as yourself is attending the Imagine Conference? You don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity to learn more about their plight and seek out your place in this quickly growing area of ministry.
Adam Gebhardt, Founder and Director, Agapao Refugee Ministry