Ramadan: World Refugee Day

Yesterday was June 20th!


June 20th?  What’s so special about June 20th?  Laundry day?  A great day for summer fun, poolside or hiking up a waterfall in a Wadi?  Honestly, I was involved in the same sort of activities until I read a news feed on my IPhone and ‘my eyes were opened’…

According to the UN Refugee Agency, June 20th was designated World Refugee Day in 2001, to draw attention to the millions of refugees worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict, and persecution.  2015 became the year of the refugee.  I wrote a little about it this week in “The Face of a Refugee”.

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But did you now that 65.3 MILLION people were displaced in 2015 alone!  65.3 million is a lot of people.  Moreover, the number is more than I can imagine.   Yet now, some super smart people at UNHCR have translated the enormity of this issue for us none-math types.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
(Mat 25:35-36)

Of all the people on the planet, 7.4 million, one person in 113 is a refugee i.e. either fleeing or asylum-seeking, in 2015 alone.  Or you could also say, every 24 seconds someone becomes a refugee.  This number is greater than the population of the United Kingdom; even more than Canada, New Zealand, and Australia combined.

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Why do they flee?

“The reasons are threefold:

  1. conflicts that cause large refugee outflows, like Somalia and Afghanistan – now in their third and fourth decade respectively – are lasting longer;
  1. dramatic new or reignited conflicts and situations of insecurity are occurring more frequently. While today’s largest is Syria, wars have broken out in the past five years in South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and Central African Republic, while thousands more people have fled raging gang and other violence in Central America;
  1. the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War, leaving a growing number in limbo” (UNHRC, June 2016)

So who are these people? 

Refugees are mostly women and children.  I met one such woman just four days ago.  Nare is an Iraqi refugee, 60-ish in years, a Follower of Jesus with an Armenian heritage, and one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met, despite the severe trauma she has undergone.

As God would have it, we met while admiring an ornate iron cross created by Byzantine Greeks and excavated on the site of an old 7th century Byzantine Monastery.  The Byzantine Monastery had been preserved within a castle-fortress built by one of Saladin’s Commanders in 1184 ADE to protect the Muslims from the Crusaders.  We both agreed the cross was exquisite and perfectly preserved.  I guess, the love of beautiful jewelry, albeit ancient, transcends language.   The leader of this Armenian Christian group, whispered some of Nare’s story to me.

Five months ago, Da’esh/ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq and she was forced to flee or die.  Despite running, she was still accosted and robbed by men who were the same age as her grandsons, which she pantomimed in detail for me.

Why would someone want to rob an old lady – hate, greed, or a disrespect of life – plain and simple?

If Nare and I spoke the same language and could talk directly to each other without fear of persecution and exposure, no doubt she would say, “I can’t go back.  Where am I to go?  I have no home”.  Nare is the face of a refugee.

Obviously, Nare is not a Muslim, despite living in a Muslim country, however during Ramadan while so many are praying and fasting, please pray for Nare and others like her.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

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