Responding to the Refugee Crisis
From Syria, Iraq, Southeast Asia and all over the world, people are being displaced daily from their homes and separated from their families. Many are Christians and some are just caught in the crosshairs of political and religious warfare. They are forced to flee the countries they grew up in, often with only the clothes on their backs. Jalil Dawood fled Iraq when he was 18. He settled in America and started a ministry for refugees. Dawood tells his life story in a new book, “The Refugee: A Story of God’s Grace and Hope on One Man’s Road to Refuge.” Dawood, the pastor of the Arabic Church of Dallas and founder of World Refugee Care, wrote the book to inspire other Christians to provide the physical and spiritual help that millions of refugees need. He was one of the lucky ones.
Growing up in a Christian family in Iraq, he was persecuted as a “kafir” or infidel. Saddam Hussein ruled the country as a police state, and people who didn’t support him began to flee. In 1982, in the midst of an eight-year war between Iraq and Iran that cost more than one million lives, Dawood managed to slip out of the country. He eventually settled in Dallas, where two of his brothers lived. Things were tough at first, but eventually he found a job and began to feel at home. The hardest part was being so far from the rest of his family.
Dawood shares in the book what it was like leaving his family.
“I didn’t want to leave my family, my community, or my country. I didn’t want to start all over again in a foreign land. I didn’t choose to be alone and confused in a new culture. No one does. But that’s the reality for people all over the world today who are forced to leave their homelands in order to simply survive.”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Then one night in August 1990, a news bulletin interrupted a television show he was watching: Saddam had invaded Kuwait, leading to the first Gulf War. The U.S. conducted a month-long bombing campaign over Baghdad in early 1991, and Dawood had no way to communicate with his family there or even know if they were alive. Then he came home one day to find a message on his answering machine from a reporter who had met one of his brothers in Kuwait. He learned that his family was alive, which gave him hope of one day being reunited.
In 1999, his family was finally reunited – 22 years after the first one of them left home. But in the refugee community, that’s considered a success story. Many refugees never see their families again.
Dawood explains in his book, how Christians should look at refugees as their neighbors instead of as a problem or a statistic.
“If you’re afraid of terrorism, refugees are your neighbors. Whether you voted Republican or Democrat, refugees are your neighbors. If you’ve never in your life spoken to someone from another country, refugees are your neighbors. And what does the Bible say you’re to do to your neighbors? Love them.”
Love your neighbor. It is easy for us to love our friends and family. But God wants us to love everyone, including those you might have different beliefs or even those who might persecute us. If you are having difficulty loving someone, pray and ask God to help you. Think through ways that you are similar to that person. It might even help to sit down with them and ask them their story to understand them.
Help refugees. Find a church or local ministry that is serving the refugee community. It could be donating clothing or food that they might need, serving for a few hours each week, or teaching them a trade that might help them sustain a living. Our compassion for others increases as we serve and pray for them.
Pray for believers worldwide. It is easy to forget that believers around the world are being persecuted and killed for their faith. Take time this week to pray for them. As you watch or read the news, if there is a story shared, pray for that country and the people. Pray that God would give the leaders wisdom what to do, protect the believers, and bring those that don’t believe into a relationship with Him. Pray that the body of Christ would be unified.
For more information about “The Refugee,” please visit https://worldrefugeecare.org/.
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